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Billings Clinic Announces Montana's First-Ever Psychiatry Residency

Billings Clinic in Billings, MT.
Courtesy Billings Clinic
Billings Clinic in Billings, MT.

The first-ever Montana medical residency for psychiatrists was announced today at Billings Clinic.

Dr Julie Kelso is its director.

"The great thing for Montana and for the region is that this is going to increase the number of psychiatrists and deal with the shortage that we have in our region for mental health services."

Kelso says Montana has fewer than half the national average number of psychiatrists per capita. That’s a contributor to the state consistently having one of the country’s highest suicide rates. Recruiting and retaining physicians, especially psychiatrists, has long been a challenge in Montana, Kelso says the new residency should really help, and that she doesn’t anticipate having trouble finding medical students who want to apply.

"We’re looking for residents who are interested in working in rural areas. What we know is that residents tend to stay where they train," Kelso says.

The new residency is being funded by a three-year, $3 million grant from the Leona M and Harry B Helmsley Charitable Trust. Kelso says the Billings Clinic Foundation is fundraising for an endowment to continue the residency.

It’s a four year training program through the University of Washington. Residents will spend their first two years in Seattle, and finish at Billings Clinic. The first class of three residents will start working in Montana in 2021.

Billings Clinic got a planning grant from the Montana Healthcare Foundation in 2014 to help it study the feasibility of a psychiatric residency. Last year the Montana Legislature allocated new funding for graduate medical education, and part of that is being allocated to the new residency as well.

Applicant interviews will held next month, and the first group of three residents will be announced in March.

Eric Whitney is NPR's Mountain West/Great Plains Bureau Chief, and was the former news director for Montana Public Radio.
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