Today’s round of questions, my smart-aleck replies and the real answers:
Question: There is a residency program in Asheville run by Mountain Area Health Education Center for individuals who want to be OB-GYN specialists. I’m curious as to the impact of training for these physicians in this specialty with the changes in the limitations on termination of a pregnancy in the state of North Carolina. Has the training changed related to skills in the in-state education of physicians developing skills in the specialty? Do they have to go out of state to get any of their training? I know that traditionally the physicians who do residencies in various disciplines by majority tend to stay in the states where they received the training. With the new laws in North Carolina, how has that impacted where physicians in OB-GYN choose to practice after they finish their residency?
My answer: At some point in my journalism career here, I’m hoping to not have to look up “MAHEC” every time to make sure I get what it stands for right.
Real answer: Dr. William R. Hathaway, the CEO of MAHEC since February 2022, provided answers and a lot of background information on this one. First, he noted MAHEC has been training doctors studying to be obstetricians/gynecologists since 1992, with an eye toward elevating the care available in this region.
“Today, we are the only high-risk obstetrics provider in Western North Carolina,” Hathaway said via email. “We received 74 applications this year for one position in the Maternal-Fetal Medicine Fellowship for 2024. Last year, we had more than 65,400 patient visits to our three ob/gyn offices in Asheville, Brevard, and Franklin.”
Through the end of the academic year on June 30, MAHEC’s resident doctors, fellows, faculty physicians, certified midwives, and other advanced practice providers “delivered nearly 2,300 babies — more than any other organization in the 16 counties we serve,” Hathaway said. Their family medicine providers delivered another 90.
Additionally, through its Project CARA (Care that Advocates Respect/Resilience/Recovery for All), started in 2014, the organization supported more than 1,500 pregnant and parenting people with a substance use disorder, Hathaway said.
Of course, the post-Roe v. Wade landscape brought changes to the entire country, and that includes North Carolina. As PBS reported May 17, “Most abortions after 12 weeks of pregnancy will be banned in North Carolina after the state’s Republican-controlled Legislature successfully overrode the Democratic governor’s veto late Tuesday.”
MAHEC, like any organization in the field, has to pay attention to changing laws.
Hathaway noted that MAHEC’s training program is fully accredited and follows all requirements and recommendations from the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology for training guidelines in complex family planning and reproductive health services. MAHEC is able to fully train its residents in complex family planning through modules, simulations, and patient care within their program.
“While legislation around women’s reproductive rights has become an evolving landscape, the training requirements for these physicians haven’t changed,” Hathaway said. “Travel out of the state is not necessary, though some trainees may choose to pursue advanced training if they desire through fellowships or away rotations. Our clinic operates in complete accordance with state and local laws.”
As far as physicians staying in the area after training, Hathaway noted their slogan is, “Recruit, train, retain.”
“It is true that, historically, physicians tend to practice in the area where they completed their training — which is exactly why MAHEC was founded nearly 50 years ago, to build our mountain region’s future healthcare workforce,” Hathaway said. “Well over 60 percent of our graduates have chosen to stay in North Carolina, and more than 80 percent of those are practicing in Western North Carolina.”
Hathaway said they do not have data “on whether recent changes in North Carolina laws will have an impact one way or the other on where current and future providers may choose to train or practice.”
Update on I-40 concrete smoothing: One thing I’ve learned from you good readers is you like your concrete smooth. Whether it’s on the new section of I-26 or parts of I-40, you’ve sent in questions about rough road surface and whether it’s going to be fixed or not.
So, I thought you’d want to know about, as the North Carolina Department of Transportation put it in a news release this week, “A notoriously bumpy stretch of Interstate 40 in Buncombe County” that “will be smoothed out soon.” This is also going to cause some travel delays.
The contractor started the project Wednesday night to repair the left lane of I-40 West between the I-26/I-240 interchange and Smoky Park Highway (Exit 44). Contract work crews will install nightly lane closures from 8 p.m. until 6 a.m. each night through Sunday, to remove existing pavement markings ahead of a traffic shift, the DOT release stated.
“A full-time lane closure starts Monday, when traffic will be shifted several feet to the right and the inside lane will be closed until repairs are complete, which is slated for the week of Thanksgiving, pending weather or other delays,” the release said.
The work will extend the life of the interstate until all lanes are upgraded and another added as part of the I-26 Connector project.
DOT anticipates backups during peak hours for the next few weeks.
“But it’s a much better plan than temporary lane closures all through winter and into the spring,” Jody Lawrence, assistant construction engineer for the DOT’s Asheville office, said in the release.
Harrison Construction is doing the work on the 1-mile section of roadway for $2 million. It’s a supplemental agreement to an adjacent project on I-40.
For real-time travel information, visit DriveNC.gov or follow NCDOT on social media.
Oh, and enjoy that smooth concrete when it’s all finished!
Asheville Watchdog is a nonprofit news team producing stories that matter to Asheville and Buncombe County. Got a question? Send it to John Boyle at firstname.lastname@example.org or 828-337-0941. To show your support for this vital public service go to avlwatchdog.org/donate.