Lowell, MA – Lowell Community Health Center (Lowell CHC) announces that it has received a $500,000 planning grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to develop a medical residency program in partnership with Tufts Medicine. This innovative residency will provide a unique perspective on health justice and cultural proficiency in a community health setting. The program will train new physicians in family medicine, addressing the critical shortage of primary care physicians in our region.  

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HHS, through the federal Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), awarded nearly $23 million to 46 grantees to plan and develop Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education programs. 

 Lowell CHC is the only recipient in Massachusetts and one of two recipients in New England. 

 “We are both honored and excited to have received this funding. The need for family medicine physicians in community health settings is more critical now than ever,” said Lowell CHC CEO Susan West Levine. “This grant provides the tools to address the medical provider shortage in a meaningful way, while creating a deeper understanding of why cultural proficiency and addressing conditions outside the exam room – such as racism and housing insecurity – are so important and have direct impacts on health.”

 “Clinical education and the education of future clinicians are the cornerstones of what an academic health system does,” said Dr. Kari Roberts, Vice President of Education for Tufts Medicine. “Our system is committed to reimagining healthcare and finding new ways to create equitable access to care. This program provides us an exciting opportunity build off the great traditions of both Lowell General and Lowell Community Health Center to create something that furthers our efforts to be as inclusive as we can be with our workforce and the patients we serve.”

 According to healthcare analysis cited by HHS, the US is expected to face a shortage of up to 50,000 primary care physicians by 2035. The shortage is particularly pronounced in community-based settings like Lowell Community Health Center.

 The community health center model is core to Lowell CHC’s mission. The health center’s Community Health Workers, nurses, and other staff members engage directly with community partners and patients. Community-based health organizations like Lowell CHC focus on not only treatments happening inside the exam room, but holistic care solutions that address specific barriers and improve the health and wellbeing of the community they serve.

“Medical residents afforded opportunities to work in a community health center environment are more likely to practice in community health,” said Kumble Rajesh, MD, Lowell CHC Chief Medical Officer. “This residency program will enable us to share the unique advantages of working in community health which include a wonderfully diverse patient population, our team-based and holistic approach to patient care, and our commitment to equity.” 

 The planning grant will support the work of building the residency program, developing a curriculum, recruiting and training clinical faculty, retooling workflow to integrate residents, and becoming accredited, all of which require resources and staffing. Lowell CHC aims to be accredited by March 2025 and begin training its first residents by July 2026.   

Collaborating with Tufts Medicine will enable Lowell CHC to meet rigorous accreditation standards which require resources beyond the health center, including inpatient hospital rotations for rounding, access to a medical library, and on-call rooms for residents to sleep during rotations. The medical residents will rotate between Lowell CHC and Tufts Medicine-affiliated hospitals, including Lowell General Hospital.