Daily, as the Virginia Health Workforce Development Authority (VHWDA) Executive Director  I receive comments from the health care community and related industries about the health workforce development challenges and opportunities to develop a pipeline of competent workers to respond to the extensive and diverse physical and behavioral needs of Virginians.  

The insight of the Virginia General Assembly to establish the VHWDA in 2010 has placed the Commonwealth at the forefront in addressing health workforce needs.  T he purpose of the VHWDA from the beginning has been to facilitate the development of a statewide health professions pipeline that identifies, educates, recruits, and retains a diverse, geographically distributed and culturally competent quality workforce for all Virginians.
The mission of VHWDA is accomplished by nine core functions as set forth in the Code of Virginia. VHWDA works diligently to carry out its objectives, one of which is to inform state and local policy development as it pertains to health care delivery, training, and education. Of the many accomplishments achieved, one critical policy-related initiative I'd like to mention pertains to the body of work focused on graduate medical education (GME). Much of the impetus for the VHWDA's significant role in this new initiative results from physician workforce studies conducted by the Joint Commission on Health Care. The studies provided p olicy options for addressing physician workforce shortages across the state. VHWDA would later be tasked with leading further research and development efforts around GME that resulted in legislative action being taken to increase residency slots in Virginia.

In 2015, VHWDA convened a GME Task Force to study residency programs and State-funded models of support, and developed recommendations to address the needs. The GME Task Force was comprised of representatives from stakeholder groups including Virginia's medical schools, hospital systems, the Joint Commission on Health Care, Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association, Medical Society of Virginia, Virginia Community Healthcare Association, Virginia Department of Health and the Virginia Department of Health Professions. As a result of the stakeholders' efforts, in collaboration with the Virginia Department of Medical Assistance Services (DMAS), a new Medicaid GME program was established.

The 2016 Acts of Assembly, Chapter 780, Item 306.FFFF authorized DMAS to make supplemental payments for up to 25 new GME residency slots effective July 2017. A total of 15 awards were made for new residency slots - thirteen (13) primary care and two (2) specialty residents. Hospitals awarded will receive $100,000 per new resident per year up to four years. Following is a list of awards made in the first cycle:
Bon Secours St. Francis Medical Center (2 residencies)
Carilion Medical Center (8 residencies)
Centra Lynchburg General Hospital (1 residency)
Sentara Norfolk General (2 residencies)
Riverside Regional Medical Center (2 residencies) 

The current application cycle is open until September 15, 2017. Forms and additional information can be accessed by clicking the following link:   DMAS GME APPLICATION

Upcoming issues  of the newsletter will feature key leaders, VHWDA and partner accomplishments, successful best practices and guidance to address health workforce matters. 
This September 2017 issue features the VHWDA board chair and  highlights one of Virginia's new medical residents.


Senator George Lincoln Barker  was first elected to the Virginia Senate in 2007. Prior to his election, he had been active in a number of civic and community organizations since first moving to Northern Virginia more than 35 years ago. He's championed numerous initiatives in the past and continues to focus on areas such as transportation, education, and health care. As a member of the Senate Finance Committee, Senator Barker was instrumental in getting funding for new residency slots for the first time in Virginia. 

Senator Barker has two degrees from Harvard University, receiving undergraduate honors in Economics and Public Health and a master's in Health Policy and Management. For three decades he worked for the Health Systems Agency of Northern Virginia, seeking to contain skyrocketing health care costs, promote quality of care, and ensure access to medical care for Virginia families. He currently consults on health care issues.

Senator Barker and his wife Jane reside in Clifton. They have two grown children, Erik and Emily, and were foster parents to 13 children. 

This is a great example of who benefits from the new residency slots in Virginia.

I am Dr. Amy Goodrich Harris from Ebensburg, PA ., which is a small, rural town two hours East of Pittsburgh. I attended medical school at Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine (LECOM.)  I went to one of LECOM's branch campuses in Greensburg, PA (1 hour east of Pittsburgh.)  My interest in medicine came to fruition while practicing as a Physician Assistant at a Pulmonary Hypertension clinic for a Pulmonary and Critical Care group several years ago. My unwavering need to have a deeper understanding of the disease process that encompasses pulmonary hypertension spiraled into a desire to gain an in-depth  understanding of medicine so that I could better care for patients. The latter coupled with encouragement from my attending physicians and family led me to continue my professional journey to medical school with an ultimate goal to practice medicine.

The most difficult time that I endured was after having my daughter at the beginning of my second year of medical school. I was in a three year accelerated program for physician assistants (physician assistant to Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine) so the latter combined with the responsibility of raising my daughter, while my husband lived out of state during my last year of school, and moonlighting at an urgent care as a PA was incredibly difficult. These challenges persist but I remain committed to achieving my ultimate goal of pursuing a cardiology fellowship.

My GME program is unique in that we train at a tertiary hospital and at a VA hospital. This allows for learning experiences at both an academic hospital and community hospital. I feel it is important for physicians in training to practice medicine in which available resources are either limited or abundant. I trust that the former and latter will prepare me for any clinical setting.

Residency becomes more competitive each year and I met a lot of outstanding applicants along the way. Each applicant brings a unique characteristic with them and has their own story to tell. I don't like to think that my past experiences in the medical field set me apart from other contenders, because I know many applicants have had similar experiences as me. Perhaps my perseverance throughout my medical journey that eventually allowed me to tell "my story" during interview season set me apart from others.

Keisha L. Smith, MPA
Tel: 804.562.4928 
Henrico, VA