Sole residency program in Alaska has WWAMI roots

by Ted Kincaid  |   

HaroldWhen fifth-generation Alaskan Harold Johnston (E'81) was a UAA WWAMI School of Medical Education student many of his clinicals and his residency pulled him out of state before he was able to return to Alaska to practice. It was easy for him to recognize the need to offer a residency program in Alaska in order to attract and retain new physicians to this unique state. Through collaboration with Barb Doty, M.D. (E'78); Mike Dimino, Ph.D.; John Coombs, M.D.; and Suzanne Tryck, Alaska Family Medicine Residency (AFMR) opened its doors in 1997 with Johnston at the helm as program director.

"Our curriculum emphasizes many of the important areas of practice for the family physician who may live and work in areas where there are no other specialties or major medical centers," says Dr. Johnston. "The model we envision has the doctor providing comprehensive care to an entire community."

For 15 years now, AFMR has offered rotations throughout Providence Medical Center and the Alaska Native Medical Center and they also partner with Mat-Su Regional Hospital as well as clinics and private practices in Soldotna and Fairbanks. Residents are required to do a six-week rural rotation in either Bethel or Dillingham during their 2nd year and two four-week rotations in a location of their choice in their 3rd year. In addition to hosting 12 new residents each year, AFMR also partners with WWAMI to provide clerkships to 3rd-year medical students and sub-internships to 4th-year medical students.

Since their inception, AFMR now boasts the highest percentage of instate retention in the nation. Eighty percent of AFMR's residents have remained in Alaska after graduation. Needless to say, WWAMI and AFMR see eye to eye and Johnston made a dream come true. For more information, visit

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