On Sunday, the Herald published its much awaited 39 under Thirty Nine. Each year, the Herald honors young professionals who are leading the Yakima Valley into the future. As our Residency Program Director, Dr. Hill is certainly making a positive impact on our community’s future by leading a training program that prepares Family Medicine physicians to care for people in communities like ours. For Dr. Hill, it is all about training excellent physicians and community. Her dream is more intensive community involvement as she further develops the residency program.
From the Yakima Herald
By her own admission, Dr. Caitlin Hill’s path to becoming a program director at Community Health of Central Washington has been filled with twists and turns. The Minnesota native has changed career paths multiple times, moved halfway across the country, and most recently took on a new leadership position. As residency program director at Central Washington Family Medicine, Hill works with physicians in residency and helps develop their skills in family medicine. Residents receive training in obstetrics, osteopathic medicine, pediatric care and integrated behavioral health.
When Hill was offered the position in September, she said she was apprehensive. She was still relatively new to the world of family medicine, with six years of combined experience in the field. Today, Hill sees her position as an opportunity to mold the residency program into the best version of itself. “There are some not-so-fun hats you have to wear as program director, but it’s also really exciting to be able to dream about where we can go with the program and be able to honor all that’s been created so far,” she said.
When she started her undergraduate degree at the University of Wisconsin, Hill thought she’d eventually go into pediatric oncology. After being introduced to anthropology and the study of how and why rural areas have historically been lacking in access to health care, Hill shifted her focus to pediatrics and working in rural communities. As she focused on family medicine during her time in medical school at the University of Minnesota and again during her residency, Hill’s passion for working in rural communities grew. That passion, combined with her program’s history in Yakima, has informed the direction she’s taking the program in. “This program’s roots are in serving our community,” Hill said. “It was created from a need in the community for primary care physicians. I think that is still the cornerstone of what our residency needs to do. When I’m dreaming about the future with my faculty and residents, what we’re thinking is really more intensive community involvement.”
Hill said more involvement in the community would take the form of outreach work, getting more involved with medication-assisted treatment for substance abuse and outreach in schools to inspire local children to go into medicine in the hopes they’d eventually bring their skills back to Yakima. She said the decision to take the job offer for program director was one made not only by her but by her family as a whole. She said she wouldn’t be where she is today without her family.
She added that her faculty’s work and their dedication to the community and the education of other physicians have kept her motivated through her years of work. Hill expounded on the importance of family medicine, saying that often family physicians are the first line of defense for residents looking for health care. Not only that, family physicians have to be able to mold themselves into what the community needs them to be. “One of my predecessors used to call family physicians the pluripotent stem cell, meaning that we can develop pretty much into whatever our communities need and that means that we do OB, prenatal care, pediatric care, end-of-life care,” Hill said. As Hill settles into her new leadership role and gets the business of helping shape the field of health care in Yakima County, she is asking residents to take part in community health assessments and to be vocal about their health needs, where they’re finding gaps in health care and about what they need from local family physicians.
“I want our community to know that we want to know what they need,” Hill said. “We want to know if they think we are producing the types of physicians they’re hoping for and if there is an area that they feel we need to emphasize in our training, we are all ears for that,” she said. “We truly want to be a residency that is rooted here in this community and that helps create the fruit that will be our medical care for many decades to come.”
Santiago Ochoa’s reporting for the Yakima Herald-Republic is possible with support from Report for America and community members through the Yakima Valley Community Fund. For information on republishing, email firstname.lastname@example.org.