Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Criticism of Howard University Hospital Residency Programs Raises Questions. (Noteworthy News: The Latest News from across the Country)

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Criticism of Howard University Hospital Residency Programs Raises Questions. (Noteworthy News: The Latest News from across the Country)

Article excerpt


An unfavorable assessment by the Accrediting Council of Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) of the residency programs at Howard University Hospital has generated a flurry of activity, including a major story in the Washington Post and the subsequent reorganization of the oversight committee that manages its medical residency programs. But some in the national medical community are crying foul, asserting that the controversy may be designed to discredit the nation's leading Black teaching hospital, which like so many other academic medical centers, is struggling to maintain its educational mission amid the pressures of managed care.

HUH Medical Director Dr. Thomas Gaiter and other hospital officials declined to be interviewed by Black Issues. But, Dr. Lucille C. Perez, president of the National Medical Association, says she finds it disturbingly coincidental that the ACGME findings have been thrust into public view only a few weeks after the Institutes of Medicine released a report stating that African Americans feel they receive a higher quality of health care when treated by African American caregivers. The IOM report, "Unequal Treatment: Confronting Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health Care," was released in March. It found that minorities tend to receive a lower quality of health care than Whites, even when insurance status, income, age and severity of conditions are comparable (see Black Issues, May 23).

"I would say that whenever anything like that goes out, we should expect a hit from Satan," Perez says. "We should have been prepared. We should have expected that someone would come about and try to discredit one of the major institutions responsible for training so many African American physicians."

The hospital was first contacted about the ACGME's unfavorable assessment of its residency programs in the fall of 2000. But widespread public knowledge of the situation did not come until last month, when an article in the Washington Post revealed that three of the hospital's residency programs are in jeopardy of being shut down by the accrediting agency as early as July. Hospital officials are in the process of appealing the findings, but, meanwhile the board of trustees has reorganized the resident oversight committee and there are indications that the hospital's assistant medical director, Dr. William E. Matory, has been removed from managing the residency program.

While only three programs--emergency medicine, family practice and pediatrics--are in immediate danger, four others are also on probation, according to the ACGME. These include anesthesiology, pathology, radiation oncology and urology. A fifth program, pulmonary disease, has had its accreditation extended with a warning and a sixth program, obstetrics and gynecology, is operating under a provisional accreditation. If the problems identified by ACGME are not addressed in accordance within the timeline outlined by the accrediting agency, the council could take measures to begin shutting down all 25 of the hospital's residency programs as early as next year. Currently, HUH residency programs are responsible for training hundreds of new physicians annually.

In a statement issued by the hospital on May 24, officials said, "The findings are unrelated to the quality or delivery of health care at the hospital. The ACGME education standards relate solely to the training and instruction provided to newly graduated physicians. ... Hospital officials are confident the newly reorganized GMEC (Graduate Medicine Education Council), including a new chairperson and new members, will improve the graduate medical education components of the hospital."

The statement added the hospital has contracted a consultant to assist in responding to ACGME's concerns. The statement also notes that the possible closure of any of the hospital's residency programs would not affect the ability of current residents to complete their programs. …

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