Graduation is always special, whether from high school, college, or a class. This year Open Door celebrates an extra-special occasion: graduating the first class of the Family Medicine Residency and sending our graduates out into the world to serve patients and share the medical expertise they have gained over the last three years.

Today our residency program is entering its fourth year, with 17 full-time residents, busy serving patients in Humboldt County. But it began with just a few medical school grads, eager to take the next step in their medical careers.

It turns out that creating a Family Medicine Residency program is not so easy! Who knew!? Well, as it happens our late CEO, Herrmann Spetzler knew, but he had a vision of bringing new providers to the North Coast and cultivating the next generation of rural primary health providers.

Realizing that vision was a years-long, hard-won community effort. Driven by dedicated leadership at Open Door and Providence St. Joseph Health, our three-year program started in 2019. Open Door interviewed over 100 candidates for six precious places on our program.

Three years later the class of 2022 – doctors Anirudh Rai, Margot Oliver, Nicole Kashani, Sean Purtell, and Zachery Nankee – are graduating. And Open Door could not be more proud. Those residents have called Redwood Community Health Center, in Eureka, their home for three years, practicing medicine and being mentored by our experienced teaching faculty. In addition, our partnership with Providence St. Joseph Health allows the residents to train in complex, hospital-based care.

The program takes a holistic approach to primary care in a rural community, allowing residents to experience the full breadth of family medicine, and be an integral part of care teams at Redwood Community Health Center. They get to know the North Coast, as well as hone their craft, and deliver patient-centered care.

“Practicing medicine in Humboldt County was a goal my wife and I had long before knowing about the residency program,” said Dr. Purtell. “Developing such a strong foundation and training under our world-class physicians has been an incredibly rewarding experience. I feel very fortunate and humbled to continue working as a member of this community and I look forward to the years ahead.”

It is fair to say that Open Door has learned as much from the residents as they have from Open Door. “We had to adapt constantly to help the residents reach critical milestones, especially in the early days. It was challenging for the residents and for us.” said Dr. May Hong, Providence St. Joseph Health’s Residency Program Director.

The community, Open Door’s leadership, the faculty, and the patients rallied to support the program and the residents – and they needed that support,” she said, “but ultimately their resilience was what allowed them to complete this training.”

Dr. Hong says that bringing the first class of residents through the program also enhanced collaboration between Open Door and Providence St. Joseph Health. “The faculty from both organizations, working together, have strengthened and focused its teaching and learning mindset.”

Each class of residents provides important insights that help us to enhance the program and the residents’ experience. The Class of 2022 will always hold a very special place in our affections and in our history. Herrmann Spetzler would have been proud them, of all they have achieved, and of all that their graduation means to Open Door and the North Coast.

“This residency program represents a shared spirit of collaboration and purpose – of both Open Door and Providence St. Joseph Health – to increase access to care for the North Coast,” said Open Door’s President, Tory Starr. “The graduation of this first class of residents brings our goal to create a family medicine residency for our community to its fruition. Now we are excited to continue this journey and this collaboration to improve the health and wellbeing of our community.

On Saturday, June 25, we host a graduation party to celebrate these providers and the remarkable growth they have shown over the three years they have spent with us. “Seeing the residents grow and mature has been a wonderful experience,” says Dr. Hong. “In a way, they helped us to develop each new rotation, as they happened, weathered the storms of COVID-19, and learned and thrived.”

Well done Nicole, Zach, Margot, Sean, and Rai.

Learn more about the Family Medicine Residency program’s goals, components, and application criteria.