Residents of deep east Texas encounter significant barriers to care, including a shortage of primary care physicians. In one county in the region, the ratio of patients to physicians is especially dire – 7,200 to one. Over the next decade, this critical shortfall is expected to worsen.
Seeking to address the care crisis, The Mary K. and Clifford Grum Foundation stepped forward in the spring of 2021 with a $2 million pledge to St. Luke’s Foundation, which raises funds across the St. Luke’s Health system in Texas. With this generous support, St. Luke’s Health Memorial - Lufkin is developing a graduate medical education residency program in partnership with Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, one of the premier residency programs in the country.
“Each day we see the devastating consequences of limited access to primary care – especially in rural communities. Financial issues, lack of transportation, and an alarming shortage of primary care physicians often force these underserved residents to go without basic treatment of chronic conditions like asthma, diabetes and high blood pressure, “ says Daniel J. Martin, St. Luke’s Health, Division Vice President of Philanthropy. “Simply put, when there aren’t enough doctors, the health of a community suffers. Thanks to Mrs. Grum’s generosity, we are now building a program that will change that by establishing an ongoing pipeline of primary care physicians for many years to come. I am deeply thankful to the Grum Foundation for their commitment to the people of East Texas and to our mission to serve the vulnerable.”
Mary Grum is deeply committed to her community and has previously made other transformational gifts to St. Luke’s Health Memorial through the St. Luke’s Foundation. Her 2019 gift of $1 million, inspired by her own family’s experience at another hospital, helped to equip a new neonatal intensive care unit, build out a nursing simulation lab at the hospital and support a maternal fetal medicine partnership with Texas Children’s Hospital. In making her gift, Mrs. Grum stated that she wanted to ensure that her own East Texas community was similarly able to care for premature babies.
“Simply put, when there aren’t enough doctors, the health of a community suffers. Thanks to Mrs. Grum’s generosity, we are now building a program that will change that by establishing an ongoing pipeline of primary care physicians for many years to come. I am deeply thankful to the Grum Foundation for their commitment to the people of East Texas and to our mission to serve the vulnerable.”
Given her generous community-focused spirit, it was no surprise that upon learning that the new residency program would help break down barriers to care by ensuring a pipeline of well-trained physicians in East Texas, Mrs. Grum was quick to respond.
Resident’s in the new program will complete their first year of training in Houston and will then spend the remainder of their residency at Memorial Lufkin Hospital in East Texas. The program’s first group of students is expected to start in July 2022.
Many young physicians express hesitation to practice in rural communities. Providing graduate medical education training within these same settings helps alleviate the stigma attached to establishing rural practices by giving physicians the necessary skills and confidence to care for patients in vulnerable, limited-resource communities.
The program is expected to train and graduate three family practice residents and seven internal medicine residents per year – establishing a vital pipeline of physicians to practice in the area and ultimately improving care in the region.
In communities across CommonSpirit Health’s ministry, graduate medical education residency programs are being developed to train tomorrow’s physicians and improve critical access to care. Visionary partners, like The Mary K. and Clifford Grum Foundation, are critical to making this possible.