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South Nassau Communities Hospital begins new residency programs

Dr. Rajiv V. Datta, right, who established a

Dr. Rajiv V. Datta, right, who established a new residency program at South Nassau Communities Hospital in Oceanside, works with residents, including Dr. Muhammad Khan, on Wednesday, July 7, 2016. Photo Credit: Jeffrey Basinger

South Nassau Communities Hospital is the only hospital in the state to introduce new residency programs in general surgery and obstetrics and gynecology this year.

The two programs accepted 10 residents who started their training Friday. Four OB-GYN residents will spend four years at South Nassau and six general surgery residents will spend five.

The programs are the latest in a series of steps the hospital has taken toward becoming a regional medical institution, said Joe Calderone, South Nassau senior vice president for corporate communications and development. Residents are usually recently minted doctors who have completed internships.

South Nassau took over operations for Long Beach Medical Center after superstorm Sandy devastated its coastal facility in 2012. It will receive $154 million in disaster relief funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which helped it to open an emergency facility on Long Beach in July 2015. It also plans to open a medical arts pavilion on the former site of the Long Beach Medical Center and expand the South Nassau facility in Oceanside.

The new programs, along with residency tracks already in place, will allow the hospital to become a tertiary institution, meaning it could handle complicated procedures rather than refer patients to other hospitals, said Alan Garely, South Nassau’s chairman of obstetrics and gynecology.

In the past, South Nassau had accepted residents on rotation from other hospitals. With their own programs in place, the hospital can home-grow talent and possibly retain these trained professionals, said Samuel Sandowski, South Nassau’s director of medical education.

“General surgeons have become a rarity and now we know that we’re able to train qualified people that we can be proud of,” Sandowski said. “We know the caliber of physicians we will be producing.”

The resident programs will elevate patient care, Garely said, because department physicians will have to stay up-to-date on medical practices.

“All the physicians in our department will be held to a much higher academic standard and will all be responsible for teaching,” Garely said.

The programs come after a yearlong accreditation process.

Few hospitals get to the application point, Sandowski said. In order to begin a residency program, an institution must have a solid educational infrastructure, a large enough patient volume and sufficient funds to support it, he said.

Even then, the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education may turn down a hospital’s proposal if teaching staff haven’t demonstrated academic involvement or if the program won’t produce highly skilled professionals.

“The requirements and the regulations are really quite strict,” Sandowski said. “It’s not easy to live up to and maintain the standards that the ACGME is requiring.”

South Nassau’s is the fourth OB-GYN program and the fifth general surgery program on Long Island. The two will be the first to geographically serve southern Nassau County.

South Nassau received accreditation in April, after most medical school graduates had been matched with residency programs. Because some students don’t receive a match because of a limited number of spots, applications flooded in for the South Nassau program.

Hopefuls from across the country and overseas, including two OB-GYN residents from Iran, applied for the slots.

Rajiv Datta, department of surgery chairman, received more than 1,000 applications in 24 hours for the general surgery positions. Garely had to sift through another 500 resumes.

“I was very excited,” Datta said. “This had been my dream to start a residency program.”

General surgery resident Joshua Melamed, 26, from Los Angeles didn’t receive a residency match in March. He had been studying in Israel, which makes it harder to get a match in the United States, Melamed said. He applied to South Nassau and received word he had been accepted as he wrote a letter to thank the hospital for considering him.

“I think it was the right decision in the end,” Melamed said. He had decided to stay in Israel until then. “If I did my residency in Israel, I wouldn’t be able to practice in the states.”

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