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Oct 20 2020

Press Release: Regional Health Systems Partners to Launch First Psychiatry Residency Program in Northern Indiana

New psychiatry residency program hopes to ease physician shortage in northwest Indiana

MERRILLVILLE, IN – Regional Health Systems, Indiana University School of Medicine (IU) and the Northwest Indiana Graduate Medical Education Consortium will launch the region’s first psychiatry residency program at IU’s northwest Indiana campus. The program will train new psychiatrists to better care for underserved populations and people with mental illness in northwest Indiana—an area designated as a high-needs geographic Health Professional Shortage Area for mental health by the United States Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).

“This collaborative effort brings much-needed mental health resources to our region and trains the next generation of highly-skilled psychiatrists,” said Regional Health Systems CEO Bill Trowbridge. “Together, we will continue to strengthen mental health care in our region so that we can meet the needs of our most vulnerable populations.”

Finding psychiatrists with open slots is a problem many mental health clients across the country encounter. This is due to a steep deficit in the projected supply of psychiatrists available compared to demand as identified by the Association of American Medical Colleges. In Indiana, the number of psychiatrists available for every 100,000 residents is 5.2—below the national average of 8.9 according to a 2015 report by the Indiana Hospital Association.

“This is the first psychiatry residency program in northern Indiana and the third from IU School of Medicine,” said Elizabeth Ryan, EdD, associate dean and campus director of IU School of Medicine Northwest—Gary. “The program contributes to a goal of recruiting medical students to the Northwest-Gary campus, upon medical school graduation transitioning to a northwest Indiana-located residency program and retaining these physicians to serve in the region.”

The new four-year program, which will accept four residents each year, has received its initial accreditation by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME), the accrediting body for graduate medical education (GME) programs.

Regional Health Systems in Merrillville is a member of the Northwest GME Consortium, a group of health care organizations providing medical training in response to the statewide physician shortage. Residents will be integrated into Regional Health Systems’ continuum of care, which includes northwest Indiana’s largest community mental health center, an inpatient psychiatric unit, two addiction units, a federally qualified community health center and a comprehensive behavioral health team made up of psychiatrists, nurse practitioners and family medicine physicians.

Nationally, one in five Americans, or 43.8 million adults, has a diagnosable mental health condition. In addition to the direct suffering of those afflicted, mental illness can indirectly affect communities. Mental illness exacerbates morbidity from other chronic diseases (e.g. diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and asthma), can increase overall healthcare costs among populations with similar levels of medical comorbidity, and increases rates of homelessness, incarceration, and lengthy and expensive hospital admissions. Furthermore, addiction—and its complications—is considerably higher among those with mental illness. As the primary caregivers in mental health, psychiatrists oversee the provision of mental health services to treat the conditions mentioned above, including differentiating primary mental illness from other medical diseases and diagnosis. To become a psychiatrist requires completion of a four-year residency program after medical school.

“The psychiatry residency program brings us one step closer to meeting the long-term public health needs of severely and chronically mentally ill patients and underserved populations in Northwest Indiana,” said Kobie Douglas, MD, chief medical officer for Regional Health Systems and a Gary native. Douglas is also an adjunct assistant professor of psychiatry for IU School of Medicine and will serve as the residency director for the new program. “Since medical residents often remain in the area where they completed their residency, providing more opportunities to train here will help address the disparities many experience in access to psychiatric care.”

“This program will help IU School of Medicine increase the number of mental health professionals trained in the state to be able to serve Hoosiers,” said Paul Wallach, MD, executive associate dean for educational affairs and institutional improvement at IU School of Medicine. “The residents will complete rotations focused on primary care, neurology, addictions, child and adolescent care and more. By focusing on mental health and primary health care, this next generation of psychiatrists will learn to provide the specialized, individualized care many patients in this vulnerable population need.”

The program is part of the IU School of Medicine Department of Psychiatry along with the current psychiatry residency programs in Indianapolis and Vincennes.

About Regional Health Systems
Regional Health Systems is Northwest Indiana’s largest provider of community-based mental health care and primary health care services for low-income, underinsured, and uninsured families. By integrating services offered at Regional Mental Health Center and Regional Health Clinic, Regional Health Systems treats the whole person and builds resilient communities. For more information, visit

About IU School of Medicine
IU School of Medicine is the largest medical school in the U.S. and is annually ranked among the top medical schools in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. The school offers high-quality medical education, access to leading medical research and rich campus life in nine Indiana cities, including rural and urban locations consistently recognized for livability.