HUNTINGTON -- No one likes to hear that they must wait weeks, even months to see a doctor.
But that's what occurs when there's a shortage of trained doctors, and Huntington is among cities across the nation facing a critical shortage of psychiatrists.
There's hope locally, however, officials at Marshall University's Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine announced Thursday. The medical school has earned the initial accreditation for a new residency program that will train up to 16 physicians in the field of psychiatry.
The residents will begin in July 2015 and train at seven area facilities, including Cabell Huntington Hospital, Marshall Psychiatry, Mildred Mitchell Bateman State Hospital, Prestera Center for Community Mental Health, River Park Hospital, St. Mary's Medical Center and the Huntington Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
Dr. Paulette Wehner, Marshall's vice dean for graduate medical education, said the school is excited for a number of reasons, particularly because many residents stay in the region and practice following the completion of their residency.
It's the first residency program to be started under the leadership of medical school Dean Joseph Shapiro and is "a true gift to the community," Wehner said.
There is a critical shortage of psychiatrists needed for many disorders -- from bipolar and eating disorders to the rise in substance abuse. And Huntington is an excellent training ground because of its many facilities and its variety of programs, said Suzanne Holroyd, who joined Marshall in January as the chairwoman of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine. The department is doubling in size as it prepares to embark on the residency program. It will be housed in the 20th Street Professional Building, Marshall Medical Center, River Park Hospital and St. Mary's.
Having come from Virginia -- where she worked as vice chairwoman of education at the University of Virginia Medical School -- Holroyd said she'd never been to a place with such incredible clinical opportunities in the field of psychiatry as there are here in Huntington.
First- and second-year students will work mostly in an in-patient setting, and third- and fourth-year students will work more in an outpatient setting. Huntington's partner institutions offer a variety of opportunities for them to practice all types of psychiatry, Holroyd said.
Dr. Shahid Masood, clinical director at Mildred Mitchell Bateman Hospital, said he's thrilled about the new program.
"I have been here 17 years and always believed we should have a residency program," Masood said. "It's so difficult to recruit and retain psychiatrists. With four new residents per year, if we can retain one or two of them, that will help fulfill the need."
Child psychiatrists are a particularly growing need, he said. The National Alliance on Mental Illness reports that 81,000 adults and 18,000 children in West Virginia live with mental illness.
More local psychiatrists will mean quicker appointment times for those who need help, Masood said, and psychiatrists trained through this comprehensive program should be second to none.
"We can certainly train outstanding psychiatrists here," Masood said.
Marshall will provide the third psychiatry residency program in West Virginia, with two existing West Virginia University programs -- one in Morgantown and another at Charleston Area Medical Center.
Marshall's new program brings the total of Marshall's residency programs to eight. Others are in the following fields: Family and community health; internal medicine; medicine/pediatrics; obstetrics/gynecology; orthopedic surgery; pediatrics; and surgery.
With the addition of psychiatry, the Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine offers a total of eight residency programs and five fellowship training programs. Preliminary positions in residencies indicate experience required before a doctor can further specialize. The school currently has 164 trainees including both residents and fellows.
Family medicine: eight doctors accepted per year, three-year residency.
Internal medicine: 12 doctors accepted per year, plus five preliminary positions, three-year residency.
Medicine/pediatrics: This combines internal medicine and pediatrics, two doctors accepted per yer, four-year residency.
Obstetrics/gynecology: three doctors accepted per year, four-year residency.
Orthopaedic surgery: three doctors accepted per year, five-year residency.
Pediatrics: six doctors accepted per year, three-year residency.
Surgery: four doctors accepted per year, plus three preliminary positions, five-year residency.
Subspecialty fellowship training
Cardiology: four doctors accepted per year, three years of training following three years of internal medicine training.
Interventional cardiology: one doctor accepted per year, one year of training following three years of training in cardiology in addition to three years of internal medicine training.
Endocrinology: one or two doctors accepted per year, three years of training following three years of internal medicine training.
Pulmonary: one or two doctors accepted per year, two years of training following three years of internal medicine training.
Medical oncology: two doctors accepted per year, two years of training following three years of internal medicine training.