The pediatric medical residency program at Howard University Hospital would be absorbed by Children's Hospital this summer under a plan that would preserve one of the Howard specialty training programs that fell below national standards last year, officials said yesterday.
The merger would make Howard's 30 pediatricians-in-training employees of Children's. They would rotate through clinical and research programs there and through community medicine programs at Howard. Howard is to reimburse Children's for their salaries.
The number of Howard-sponsored pediatricians produced each year also would drop from 10 to six. The numbers are significant, because many medical residents from the mostly black university remain in the area after training and treat those in the medically underserved African American community.
Hospital officials said the collaboration would expose Howard's newest pediatricians to medical services and research opportunities not offered by Howard, such as specialized care for pediatric trauma patients and newborns. Children's officials said the arrangement would diversify its staff and expand the hospital's community medicine programs.
If the proposal is approved by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, a Chicago-based group that supervises training of new medical school graduates, the change will be phased in over three years beginning July 1 and the original program would be shut down.
There would be few noticeable changes, Howard officials said. All resident physicians who treat children at Howard's hospital and clinics will continue seeing patients as usual and complete their three-year programs on schedule. "I think it will be seamless," said Renee Jenkins, chairman of Howard's pediatrics department.
Parents said they liked the plan -- especially if it would preserve established relationships.
"I would feel more comfortable because I would feel the doctors are getting more diverse training," said Donna Clay, an Oxon Hill resident and Howard University employee whose 14-year-old daughter, Kierstin, has always been treated by Howard's pediatrics residents. "It sounds like a good thing."
Carolin Harrison, 41, a Children's Hospital worker from Southeast Washington, agreed and said she would continue sending her four children to Howard.
The merger is expected to save money for Howard and provide patients with a cohesive system that could lead directly to whatever specialized services may be needed at Children's, said Thomas E. Gaiter, the medical director of Howard's hospital.
"Doctors will be going back and forth, and patients feel it's comforting to see the same faces at both," he said.
Last year, the graduate medical education council revoked accreditation of residency programs in emergency medicine and pediatrics at Howard and warned that all 24 residency programs could be shut down unless dramatic improvements were made. The most frequent deficiency cited by the council was that residents saw too few patients to support quality training.
In November, Howard officials announced that they would eliminate one program with 19 trainees in various specialties and cut the number of residents in the 24 surviving programs. The complement of house physicians would drop to about 250 in several years from the current 300 to 340.
Clinical programs in anesthesiology, radiology, pathology and radiation oncology have probationary accreditation, which requires further corrections. The emergency medicine department was forced to reconstitute its program, and the urology program's accreditation has been revoked.
The pulmonary disease residency is accredited "with a warning."
Gaiter said Howard is moving aggressively to satisfy all of the accreditation council's concerns.