Leaving a Legacy
by: Monica Newton, DO
I remember it clearly. I was at an ACGME annual conference when researchers from NYU presented their data. Their hypothesis was that communities that had a residency program were healthier – their findings were just the opposite. As a founding program director about to launch a residency program, this information stopped me in my tracks.
The mission of Northeast Georgia Health System (NGHS) is “improving the health of our community in all we do.” Because of this mission, I was compelled to consider how we can ensure that residents have buy-in to be community health advocates – while in residency and beyond.
There are lots of community activities I have seen residency programs do – education sessions, health fairs, free clinic staffing, etc. All these efforts are great. For our program, I dug deeper: what are some experiences we can hardwire into the curriculum that will leave a lasting impact on the program, the residents and most importantly, the community?
I began thinking about the legacy each class will leave – that they will own. What kind of mark will they make?
We began laying the foundation for Legacy Projects.
I’m currently the Chair of the community health needs assessment for NGHS, and as a benefit, I have mountains of data at my fingertips. This data helps us tease out the needs of the community. We use this data to examine what our residents can do as a class project that would make a difference; for each class to leave a legacy.
In 2022, our first PGY-2 class presented their ideas to a community board. They included:
- Phone a friend outreach (to those who screened at risk for suicide)
- Blood pressure screenings at a chicken plant here in Gainesville, Georgia with a large Hispanic population
- Group pregnancy model of care for first time moms.
The community chose the group pregnancy model!
In May 2022, we stared the first cohort of pregnant moms. They had group visits covering 11 topics including parenting, breast feeding, doula use, exercise, yoga and nutrition.
The results were wonderful. Since then, we have had two more cohorts. At the end of their time together they have a birthday celebration, bringing their children and celebrating their journey. Alumni come back to meet and share their experiences with other classes of pregnant moms.
Continuing to Grow
In 2023, our second class of PGY-2 residents looked at new data and decided to pursue several other projects. The presentations ranged from a community garden to an educational speaker’s bureau for the community.
In the end, the residents, faculty and community board chose to support a “Walk with a Doc” chapter in Gainesville, Georgia. This chapter plans to have resident led walking sessions with an educational component. They plan to partner with community groups with an emphasis on areas of color or health disparity.
Leaving a Legacy is Rewarding
Empowering young physicians to make a difference in the communities they serve is a passion of mine. We do this by teaching them that community work is work, but it is rewarding when you work with the community to accomplish a common goal. The residents, to that end, gain skill in grant writing as they take their ideas to the Georgia Healthy Families Alliance for funding. The last two projects have been awarded $5,000 to get the projects off the ground and then sustained by the program.
So, what is your passion? How do you want to make your time count in residency? Why not leave a legacy?