IDuring a check-up at Open Door Family Medical Center in Sleepy Hollow, a toddler delights in attention from resident London Muse, MD, (right) and Rebecca Williams, MD, Associate Director of the residency program.

I will never forget my first week at Phelps – the smiles and happiness on people’s faces as they watched us walk down the hallways. Everyone expressed how happy they were that Phelps had started a residency program,” says Jorge Espana, one of six young men and women who arrived at Phelps in July to begin training as the inaugural class of Phelps’ brand new family medicine residency program – the first such residency program established in New York State since 1995.

A family physician treats the whole person in every stage of life. They are trained to take care of the entire family, dealing with issues that may affect more than one family member and creating long-term, personal relationships with their patients.

“Family physicians deliver babies, care for children, and are trained to see patients from youth into middle age and through their later years. We bring a holistic perspective to healthcare that focuses on prevention rather than disease,” says Dr. Shantie Harkisoon, a family medicine physician and director of the 18-resident program (six additional residents will be added in each of the next two years). Dr. Harkisoon is also an assistant professor of family and community medicine at New York Medical College in Valhalla.

During the three-year residency, the residents live in apartments on the Phelps campus. They receive their clinical training at Phelps and at the Sleepy Hollow location of Open Door Family Medical Centers, a healthcare provider that offers primary healthcare and human services to the underserved in our community. More than 100 Phelps physicians currently serve as voluntary faculty for the program.

“The establishment of this family medicine residency is a huge leap forward for Phelps,” says hospital president and CEO Keith F. Safian. “We have transitioned from a community hospital to a teaching hospital, a sea change that would not have been possible without our partners at New York Medical College (the academic sponsor) and Open Door.”

Dr. Lawrence L. Faltz, Senior Vice President for Medical Affairs, believes that the evolution to a teaching mode at Phelps is good for the entire community. “Teaching challenges physicians and keeps them on their toes,” he says. “Better doctors mean better healthcare, and that’s a good thing all the way around.”

“What’s really unique and great about our program is how eager and enthusiastic everyone is about supporting the training of family physicians – from the Board of Directors to the nursing staff, to the specialists calling residents in when they have interesting cases, to community members offering financial support and community outreach,” says Dr. Harkisoon.

“The partnership with Open Door is facilitating outstanding training for our residents in the outpatient setting where they can learn to be leaders in a patient-centered medical home. And the great thing about training residents in a community hospital is that the new doctors are being trained where they will practice in the future. They are already establishing relationships with their patients, the specialists and the hospitalists, and they know all of the resources available in the community.”