Working with the community... for a healthier community.

Merit Health Wesley Residents Increase Access to Healthcare

  February 03, 2017

By David Heitz

Merit Health Wesley would like the community to join them in welcoming 15 new resident physicians to Hattiesburg.

The 15 new residents bring the total number resident physicians at Merit Health Wesley to 25. Merit Health Wesley announced its new physician residency program in 2015, with the introduction of four new doctors.

“The rapid growth of our program is a testament to our physicians, hospital, and community,” said Mike Neuendorf, chief executive officer at Merit Health Wesley. “They all contribute to making this a great place for young physicians to live and gain expertise.”

These physicians are playing a vital role in creating a healthier Hattiesburg, particularly considering the critical doctor shortage nationwide.

The Merit Health Wesley program places the residents in two areas where there is great need for more doctors: internal medicine and emergency medicine.

The residency program is a partnership between Merit Health Wesley and William Carey University’s College of Osteopathic Medicine.

In the U.S., 35 percent of emergency medicine physicians are over age 55; 42 percent of internal medicine physicians are over 55.

“The current number of medical school graduates and residency programs cannot compensate for the aging population and retiring workforce, and Mississippi has the smallest number of physicians per population in the nation,” Sherry Turner, D.O., MPH, FACOEP told Healthy Cells. “That’s why we are stepping in to make medical education readily available to some of the best new physicians. Research shows that residents who train and attend medical school in the same state are more likely to remain in that state after they have completed their programs, and this is our ultimate goal.”

Turner serves as director of graduate medical education, as well as the program director for the emergency medicine residency. The internal medicine residency program is led by Kurt Bruckmeier, M.D. and Deepu Thoppil, M.D.

What is osteopathic medicine?
Osteopathic medicine, which is what the residents at Merit Health Wesley have studied, adheres to a philosophy of listening to the patient – not just looking at their chart. Both Merit Health Wesley and William Carey University are accredited by the American Osteopathic Association.

“The focus of osteopathic medicine is on the whole patient rather than treating the section of the specialty,” Turner said. “Osteopathic medicine considers alternative approaches rather than medications alone, determining the patient’s personal beliefs and values and partnering with the patient to provide the best health care approach possible. Osteopathic physicians are not exclusive in this treatment, but this approach does lend more to a family medicine or general practice type model.”

An added benefit to having newly graduated doctors is that they tend to be up on all the latest medical research since they are fresh from the academic environment.

“Physicians who have recently graduated medical school bring with them new ideas, new research, and new experiences, and we’re happy to be able to provide that to the communities we serve,” said Turner. “The direct benefit that a patient sees is the team approach. One patient now has more than one physician listening to them and observing their symptoms. The physicians collaborate, creating an even more personalized and thorough patient experience.”

With the addition of the Emergency Medicine residency program, the hospital’s Emergency Department has raised the bar for emergent care even higher. 

“Merit Health Wesley has successfully been executing a 30-minutes-or-less ER service pledge since 2012, and we are often able to cut that time in half,” Turner said. “Adding resident physicians to our staff has made our ER even stronger. In addition, our residency programs will increase the number of board-certified Emergency Medicine physicians in Mississippi. For the patients in our ER, having resident physicians on staff means that they are being cared for by not just one physician, but a team of physicians working together to create a care plan that best addresses the patient’s need.”

“As we add residents to a facility where residents had not previously been trained, we bring this daily look at the latest literature not only to the residents but also to the attending physicians,” Turner said. “This is done on daily rounding, in lectures and in patient care discussions. Both residents and the faculty are required to complete research which improves medical knowledge and patient care even outside our local area.”

The Internal Medicine Residency Program has also added benefits for Pine Belt residents.
Turner said Merit Health Wesley’s internal medicine resident physicians care for patients in a full-service internal medicine clinic. “There, we are often able to assist underserved patients who either can’t afford health insurance premiums or can’t afford their deductibles. We have programs that patients can apply for through this clinic to provide them with this much-needed assistance.”

Helping Mississippi improve its rank on “Healthy Living” lists
With 11,000 Baby Boomers per day turning 65, quality doctors and a holistic wellness approach never have been in more demand. While modern medicine has allowed people to live longer, that doesn’t mean a whole lot if people aren’t living well.

Aging Americans who don’t take care of themselves can develop cardiovascular problems, issues with memory and thinking, and lose their mobility and independence. While some of these issues are inevitable with aging, preventative medicine and a doctor who promotes overall wellness can help stave off such issues by educating patients about healthy living.

Practicing in Mississippi is a win-win for doctors of osteopathy, who practice with a philosophy of compassion and educating their patients about living better. Unfortunately, Mississippi continues to land near the bottom (at sometimes at the bottom) of the list for healthy living in ranking after ranking. Merit Health Wesley is committed to helping all Mississippians live better lives through understanding the importance of proper nutrition, staying active mentally and physically, and understanding risks associated with unhealthy vices such as tobacco use. 

“Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine believe there’s more to good health than the absence of pain or disease,” the American Osteopathic Association reports. “As guardians of wellness, D.O.s focus on prevention by gaining a deeper understanding of your lifestyle and environment, rather than just treating your symptoms.”

About Merit Health Wesley’s Resident Programs
Residents spend three years in the internal medicine program at Merit Health Wesley. The program focuses on general internal medicine, which is a specialty that deals with the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of adult diseases. The program’s goal is to provide a well-rounded experience for physician residents who want to pursue a career as a community-based internist or those who intend to pursue a subspecialty field such as cardiology, gastroenterology, nephrology (kidney disease), or other specialties.

The emergency medicine program is a four-year program focusing on quality emergency medical training. The curriculum includes education in obstetrics, surgery, trauma, pediatrics, critical care, and other skills.

As for building a stronger Merit Health Wesley in its mission for a healthier Hattiesburg, the hospital system isn’t done yet.

“We are currently working towards the capability of accepting not only Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.) but also Doctors of Medicine (M.D.), allowing the disciplines to combine their knowledge and training for our patients’ best outcomes.”

As an affiliate of the state’s largest healthcare system, Merit Health Wesley is committed to providing superior care across the Pine Belt. For more information about Merit Health Wesley, call 601-268-8000 or visit
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February 03, 2017
Keywords:  Feature Story

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