Newswise — (CHICAGO) -- On July 1, Rush University Medical Center will launch its new, fully accredited residency program, with 12 first-year physicians. When the three-year emergency medicine residency program is fully staffed, it will include 36 trainees, making it one of the largest residencies at Rush, said Dr.Braden Hexom, emergency medicine residency program director. With the addition of the emergency medicine residency, Rush now trains physicians in all major disciplines, with about 700 residents across 25 specialties. 

Rush’s emergency medicine program will be the newest in the country, and is the first new emergency medicine residency program in Chicago in the last 20 years. Its training and curriculum will reflect the innovation for which Rush is known. While it will teach all aspects of emergency medicine, the program boasts a unique focus on disaster preparedness and the use of analytics to measure efficiency and outcomes.

The First Class

The 12 physicians who will comprise the first group of residents in the three-year program come from across the globe. One grew up amid violence on Chicago’s South Side, and returns to help build medical education opportunities for disadvantaged students. Another was born in Taiwan and is the CEO of an NIH-sponsored biotech startup working on breast cancer diagnostic kits. A third is an assistant professor of psychiatry at Rush who has been in practice for about 15 years and wanted to change his specialty.

A Solid Foundation for Innovation

Physicians will be trained in a variety of settings, including rotations at Rush University Medical Center, where residents will see patients in the state-of-the -art, 40,000-square-foot Emergency Department that opened as part of Rush’s Tower hospital building in 2012. Residents also will work closely with other hospital departments, such as critical care and pediatrics, to which emergency patients often are admitted.

They’ll be exposed to trauma medicine through a longstanding partnership between Rush and nearby John H. Stroger Hospital of Cook County, and they’ll also spend time at Rush Copley Medical Center, a thriving community hospital in west suburban Aurora with an emergency department that is among the top 10 busiest in the state. This is important, Hexom says, because most emergency medicine physicians ultimately will practice in community hospitals, where they’ll see a wider range of medical issues that they’ll be tasked with solving quickly and independently.

Atop this strong foundation is the special focus on disaster preparedness, one of Rush’s core competencies. Rush is widely recognized as the top academic medical center in Chicago for the identification and treatment of infectious disease and biohazard exposure. Rush University Medical Center is uniquely equipped for infection control and large-scale response to a bioterror attack or deadly pandemic, with an ambulance bay that can be turned into a huge decontamination room, specialized ventilation to isolate the air in rooms or entire wards, and robotic equipment to minimize cross-contamination.

“Rush really is in a unique position to be able to train physicians on how to care for patients who have been exposed to infectious disease or biohazards. By the end of the program, these doctors will have a very critical skill set unmatched by most of their peers,” Hexom says.

The residents also will take part in disaster planning, he adds. Rush regularly leads or partners with the City of Chicago and other organizations on drills and preparation for large-scale disaster events. This will be an invaluable opportunity for physicians to see the full scope of how their work can have an impact, Hexom adds.

“Our objective is to train outstanding clinicians who are prepared to handle any emergency medicine environment and to equip them with the skills to be efficient, capable and compassionate emergency physicians,” he says.

Measuring Their Progress

Another major focus of the program will be on self and peer assessment. From the first month, residents will be integrated into the emergency department’s quality improvement process. Through continual peer review of cases and performance evaluation, residents will acquire additional skills that will prove invaluable as they enter an increasingly measurement-driven clinical environment.

Rush residents will amass data on number of emergency patient visits, procedures, and turnaround times to review and analyze in an effort to improve efficiency and patient outcomes. This information helps all physicians – residents and attendings – to refine the way they practice and hone their problem-solving skills. Residents will be able to show future organizations their progress, and to demonstrate the ability to use objective information to make decisions on what is not always an exact science.

Because emergency care is shifting dramatically along with health care as a whole, knowing how to collect and analyze this information is critical to delivering the best care. This data also is incorporated into national quality and patient satisfaction numbers that affect payment from Medicare, Medicaid and private health insurers both for health systems and individual physicians.

“At the end of Rush’s three-year program, these physicians will be well versed in how to quickly spot trends and make changes that lead to better outcomes,” Hexom says. “This truly can help determine best practices and ensure that we’re getting the most out of our resources, so we can treat a greater number of patients more appropriately. Rush-trained emergency physicians will be very well positioned to bring this kind of thinking and practice to whatever community they end up serving.”

Right Time for Rush

Adding an emergency medicine residency program long has been part of the Rush department of emergency medicine plan, says Dino Rumoro, DO, chair of the department and also the president of the medical staff at Rush. The department has experienced tremendous growth over the past decade, and with more than 72,000 patients seen in a year, it has the volume to support such a program, he says.

It also reflects the Rush system’s mission to improve the health of the individuals and diverse communities Rush serves through the integration of outstanding patient care, education, research and community partnerships.

“This program really touches on all parts of our mission,” Rumoro says. “Training the next generation of providers is one of our greatest responsibilities, and we’re privileged to launch this program as another way to do that.”