GREENFIELD — A local business has donated $15,000 toward the construction of the family medicine residency program in the works at Baystate Franklin Medical Center.
“I was on the Baystate board of trustees … when they were first starting to talk about (the project),” said Tim Farrell, co-owner of Gilmore & Farrell Insurance on Bernardston Road. “At that point, it was really something I felt would be good for the community, because of the need for doctors in our area. That’s always been a challenge, whether it be Baystate Franklin or any small community hospital … trying to attract doctors in the area so health care locally is strong and available.”
Recalling conversations from his three years on Baystate’s board of trustees, Farrell said it was often expressed to board members that doctors tend to stay in the area where they were trained for a period of time after their residency.
“The idea we could have this medical school program in Greenfield, with the possibility of keeping doctors local, seemed like a great idea to me,” Farrell said. “It’s a good thing for Baystate — the entire system — but also Franklin County.”
The roughly $4.2 million project at 48 Sanderson St. includes renovations on the second floor to create a new teaching space, as well as new offices for the residents and faculty. Renovations on the first floor, where the family medical practice is currently located, will include updating the existing clinical space for more efficient exam rooms.
Although the first phase of renovation work has been delayed, all architectural design work has been completed and construction bids have been awarded, according to Dr. Robert Baldor, founding chair and professor for the University of Massachusetts Medical School-Baystate Department of Family Medicine.
“There’s been a little bit of a slow-down because of COVID-19 and supply chain issues, and also because … we have to get (Department of Public Health) approval for various renovations,” Baldor explained. “DPH has been really backed up. Those approvals are taking longer than I had hoped for.”
Still, Baldor said, the family medicine residency program is on track to welcome interns in June.
“Whereas I hoped to have things done by the time residents got here … the renovations will be something we’re doing as we’re rolling out the program,” he noted.
Four residencies a year will be offered to start, Baldor said, so over the first three years it will grow to have 12 participants enrolled.
“We’ve got four super candidates,” Baldor said. “During our interview process, we were looking for pioneers to start the program. These folks could have gone anywhere, and the fact they chose to come to us is really great.”
All four interns — all of whom will have completed four years of medical school and be ready to do a residency, which is required to be licensed — have some tie or connection to the area, Baldor said. Two interns are from the University of Massachusetts Medical Center in Worcester; one intern went to Drexel University and is getting married on Mount Sugarloaf in June; and one intern grew up north of Boston and wants to live in a rural area, not too far from family.
Previously, Greenfield Cooperative Bank donated $75,000 and Freedom Credit Union has committed $15,000 over five years. Earlier this year, Franklin First Federal Credit Union donated $20,000 toward the family medicine residency program in memory of one of its late board members, former Greenfield Police Chief David Guilbault.
“We’ve had really wonderful support,” Baldor said of the numerous donations. “I think it really reflects the fact we need to have high-quality care here and this is a true investment in the community and Franklin County in general.”
Additionally, two education grants from the federal government will support the roughly $4.2 million investment at 48 Sanderson St. One of the grants is a $750,000 Health Resources and Services Administration grant that will assist with the family medicine residency development, while the other, an Area Health Education Center grant for $100,000, supports medical student experiences.
Reporter Mary Byrne can be reached at email@example.com or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne