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Dr. Amy Mikhael and Dr. Sanmitha Sundaram Kota are residents in the Christus Good Shepherd internal residency program in Longview. The program is teaming with Texas A&M University’s College of Medicine.

Christus Health has teamed with Texas A&M University in a partnership that will provide patients across East Texas with “access to a new level of expertise.”

The university’s College of Medicine will serve as the academic affiliate for the Christus Good Shepherd Internal Medicine Residency program in Longview, Christus Health announced this week.

The University of Texas at Tyler formerly was the academic affiliate and institutional sponsor for the residency program, but Christus Health’s decision to partner with Texas A&M was made because that university already is an academic supporter of other health system programs, said Dr. Mike Finley, Christus system medical director and designated institutional official.

“It’s better to have one academic support where you can do things with efficiency and have standardization, and even our workshops and all those types of things, it makes sense for everything to be under one umbrella,” Finley said.

Pukar Ratti, assistant director for research and academics for Christus Health, said it’s hard to compare the two universities but said Christus’ goal was to gain efficiencies by being able to work with a single academic affiliate partner.

“If UT Tyler would have been in that place, we would have stayed with only UT Tyler, but just because we have larger collaborations already in place for many decades with Texas A&M, it naturally made sense for us to move this newly sponsored program under that umbrella, but the two are equally good,” Ratti said.

He said some Christus Health physicians now will be faculty members with Texas A&M University, which will grant them access to academic resources at the university.

“There are also many professional development opportunities that will come along, not to mention the Texas A&M library access will be extended to our faculty, as well as the residents,” Ratti said.

Texas A&M also is academic supporter for Christus’ Emergency and Family Medicine Residency Program in Corpus Christi.

The university’s College of Medicine also recently collaborated with Christus Health to become academic support for its large family medicine program in San Antonio.

Christus Health will not have any financial obligation to Texas A&M in the new partnership.

“Recruiting new doctors and training the best in the country is a privilege,,” said Chris Glenney, senior vice president of group operations for Christus Health Northeast Texas. “We are proud to join together with one of the best academic institutions in health care because this community deserves the best. This partnership allows us to continue our journey to attract and develop the most highly-qualified, talented clinicians to come to Northeast Texas and will only build upon our excellent medical community.”

Todd Hancock, Christus Good Shepherd Health System president and chief executive officer, said training future physicians is one of the health system’s highest honors

“The new affiliation with Texas A&M College of Medicine will only strengthen this legacy program and ensure we continue to attract the most talented residents from around the country,” he said.

Jennifer Reemtsma, director of academics at Christus Health, said physicians from some of the most prestigious medical schools and programs around the globe will travel to Longview to train as part of the program.

“These changes and partnerships allow the program to operate more effectively. Patients will still get the same high level of care. This program is already excellent, and we look forward to its future growth,” she said.

Finley believes all 36 internal medicine residents in the Longview program and others who join in the future will benefit from the change.

“The best should be able to train the best,” he said. “These young physicians come to work every day with a passion and a belief that the patients should come first. We are excited about the future of the program and the many dynamic training opportunities to come.”

Christus Health Chief Clinical Officer Dr. Sam Bagchi said the partnership with Texas A&M will only make the program more comprehensive.

“The alliance of Christus Health and Texas A&M ensures that the families in Longview, Marshall and all of Northeast Texas will have access to a new level of expertise,” Bagchi said. “Internal medicine residencies are three years long and require immense dedication. We are proud of our programs and what they have come to offer.”

Physicians receive training through residency programs after graduating from medical school and before they can practice independently.

The Good Shepherd internal medicine residency program welcomed its first class in 2012, with 54 residents graduating in 2015.

After completion, many residents choose to practice as primary care providers or as hospitalists, according to Christus Health. Others will go on to do additional training in various sub-specialties, such as cardiology, pulmonary-critical care, infectious disease, endocrinology, geriatrics, GI/hepatology and hematology/oncology/leukemia.

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