Local Program Spotlight

CommonSpirit Health Leverages Local Partnerships to Address Critical National Physician Shortage

Chicago, Ill. (August 9, 2021) – CommonSpirit Health is working to address a growing shortage of physicians nationwide and specifically the need for culturally competent specialists to work within rural and underserved communities.

According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, there will be a projected shortfall of 9,000 obstetricians nationwide by the year 2030. Already, less than 50 percent of rural counties in the United States have an obstetrician/gynecologist practicing in the area1, significantly limiting prenatal care for rural women and increasing maternal mortality by 300 percent.

With nearly $2.9 million in grant funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, two of CommonSpirit’s greater Sacramento-area hospitals are working together to address this growing shortfall. The grant application process was highly competitive and required successful applicants to demonstrate their unique ability to meet the goals identified. Nationwide, only 31 programs were selected for funding.

“Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital Foundation has been the lead grant developer of several multi-hospital, rural grant programs over the years including telemedicine technology, Palliative Care program capacity building, and Family Practice Residency programs,” said Kimberly Parker, Executive Director of Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital Foundation. “This program is very unique in the size and scope of the project as a five year grant that includes continuity clinics as well.”

Collaborating with CommonSpirit’s national philanthropy team, Grass Valley’s Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital Foundation, Sacramento’s Dignity Health Methodist Hospital and Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital are launching a Primary Care Obstetrics Training Track and fellowship program. The program’s goal is to increase the number of primary care physicians with enhanced training to provide high quality care in rural and underserved communities where retaining obstetricians is especially challenging.

Primary Care Obstetrics Training Track participants will join Methodist’s Family Member Residency program, an eight resident per year program serving multiple clinical specialties. Increasing the program to ten, two obstetrics residents will join the rural training track completing their first year at Methodist and the following two years at Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital, Mercy Family Medical Clinic and nearby Chapa-De Indian Health Clinic. The Chapa-De partnership provides residents a unique opportunity to train within a tribal population.

Methodist’s residency program is based in South Sacramento, a racially diverse and socioeconomically disadvantaged community with more than a quarter of its population living below the poverty line. The Primary Care Obstetrics Track’s multiple training site’s offer its residents experience in clinic and hospital settings in both urban and rural environments with ethnically diverse underserved patient populations.

From this regular and consistent exposure, residents will learn to manage a wide variety of cultural, economic, and social factors across the continuum of care from prenatal, delivery, and postpartum. The hope is that learning the importance of these services to those with whom they are working will drive future physicians to continue their practice within these sensitive populations.


1 Corinne Lewis, Isabel Paxton, and Laurie Zephyrin, "The Rural Maternity Care Crisis," To the Point (blog), Commonwealth Fund, Aug. 15, 2019. https://doi.org/10.26099/j0nn-ap16
2 Corinne Lewis, Isabel Paxton, and Laurie Zephyrin, "The Rural Maternity Care Crisis," To the Point (blog), Commonwealth Fund, Aug. 15, 2019. https://doi.org/10.26099/j0nn-ap16