Participating Program Highlight
This week we chatted with Ukiah Valley Family Medicine Residency‘s Associate Program Director Sara Martin, MD, MSc!
Can you start by telling me about your program?
To understand our program, one needs to understand our community. Nestled in the wide Ukiah valley in rural Northern California, we are surrounded by mountains. On our west, the mountains are covered in redwoods that stretch to the coast, and on our east, they are covered with wild grass that is golden in the summer and a rich green in the winter. Due to its mountainous nature, Mendocino County takes ~three hours to drive across, and a decent percentage of its ~80,000 inhabitants lack cell service. People usually don’t think of rural when they think of California, but we qualify by any definition.
We are a tight-knit program, with six residents per class year that receive close mentorship from our faculty. We focus on full-spectrum family medicine because that is what our community needs, and our graduates fill vital roles within our community. Most of the unopposed training occurs in our rural health center (RHC) residency clinic and our small 75-bed hospital with eight ICU beds, but we also send our residents to more rural sites so they can experience the variety of clinical settings that Mendocino County can offer. View more information about Ukiah Valley here.
What makes your program unique?
We were founded by the community, for the community. Literally. About a decade ago, community members learned what a residency was, and went to the hospital to petition for their own. They continue to advise us on the direction of the residency and have ensured that our residency is welcomed with open arms. Importantly, this has led to the development of our community medicine rotation, where residents are acquainted with partner organizations and oriented to all that our community has to offer.
Another thing that makes our program unique is the fact that not only are we rural, but we also sadly have a large homeless population, and our median income is below the national average despite being in California. I have even heard that we have the highest per capita homeless rate in all of California. This unfortunate fact means that our residency has a unique opportunity for residents to train in homeless medicine in a rural community.
How was the RTTC helpful to you in the process of developing your program?
We are a new program – founded in 2019 – so the RTTC has been pivotal in helping us to make connections with other rural residencies and potential applicants. Our residents, colleagues, and mentors that we have met through RTTC have helped us to develop our curriculum and utilize our resources to serve our community in the most meaningful way.
What do you want people to know about your program?
When people ask us to describe ourselves in three words, we usually say that we are a “crunchy cowboy community.” Crunchy because Mendocino County definitely has a flavor / element of tie-dye and hippie, pointing to the counterculture and advocacy aspect of family medicine. Cowboy because of our emphasis on full-spectrum family medicine and a robust training experience. And community because not only were we founded by the community, but we also have a strong sense of community within the residency. Learn more about Sarah’s program here!