The Montana Family Medicine Residency program is unique.

Started in 1995 and designed to train and place more family medicine practitioners across the state, the residency program is sponsored by RiverStone Health, St. Vincent Healthcare and Billings Clinic and housed at RiverStone.

"It's unique that it's housed in a community health center," said Roxanne Fahrenwald, a doctor at RiverStone and the program's former director.

The three organizations recently received the Baldwin Award, which "recognizes sponsoring institutions that foster a humanistic culture that supports a respectful, supportive environment for medical education."

The award is given by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education and the Arnold P. Gold Foundation. It's handed out each year to up to six programs.

This year, they only awarded three. Along with the Billings program, Vanderbilt University Medical Center and Virginia Commonwealth University were also recipients.

The two universities run considerably larger programs. Vanderbilt has 90 residency programs and more than 900 residents and fellows. Virginia Commonwealth has 80 programs and 200 residents and fellows.

By comparison, the Montana Family Medicine Residency program has 24 residents and one fellow. That, along with the fact that the residency program is sponsored by two hospitals and a community health center, not a university, make the program in many ways one-of-a-kind, Fahrenwald said.

"The program has had a significant impact," said John Felton, president and CEO of RiverStone. "It's a community solution for how to do this."

Traditionally, residency programs are designed to teach participants how to be good doctors, he said.

"We need to teach doctors how to be good people," he said.

The Montana Family Medicine Residency program helps do that. The program exists to meet the needs of the state's unique demographic. Yellowstone County has a large under-served and high-need population. Statewide, many communities are located in rural and isolated corners of Montana and lack easy access to quality healthcare.

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