CMMC purchases housing for residents, students

By: 
JENNY GESSAMAN
Reporter

Ben Miller, left, and Giorgos Hadjivassiliou, right, pose outside of their current apartment building, the white colonial near Lewistown Junior High. Miller is a medical student at Pacific Northwestern University of Health Sciences in Yakima, Washington, while Hadjivassiliou is a resident physician with the Billings Clinic Internal Medicine Residency Program.

Photo by Jenny Gessaman

Yes, the rumors are true: Central Montana Medical Center has bought the white colonial by Lewistown Junior High. Now, with four apartments available, the hospital hopes to build the partnerships that bring residents and students to its facilities.


Necessary for growth
The idea of CMMC purchasing its own housing originated last summer, according to Physician Services Coordinator and Human Resources Manager Torie Poser.

“It really came along when we were named one of the training sites for the program in Billings,” she said, referring to the Billings Clinic Internal Medicine Residency Program.

Partnering with residency programs and medical schools is common for established hospitals, Poser explained, and benefits everyone involved. For the trainees, it gives them a place to learn. Medical students are required to do rotations, or practice medicine under doctor supervision, to receive their degree. After receiving a degree, the new physicians do residencies, or graduate level programs where they train in a medical specialty by practicing that type of medicine under supervision.

 In turn, Poser said, the hospital’s participation gives it a voice in the future of medicine. It also puts CMMC, and Lewistown, on the map for future doctors: Poser hopes to see at least some of the students and residents return as full-time physicians.

If partnering with training programs is the goal, then housing is a hurdle, according to CMMC Chief Financial Officer Alan Aldrich. Medical student rotations can last anywhere from two weeks to six months, and Aldrich has seen the Lewistown’s housing create challenges for some. While one of the partnering programs rents a house for its students, other trainees have struggled to find short-term apartments or have simply taken up a room in a local doctor’s home.

Poser added the challenge isn’t just for future doctors, either: As a physician recruiter for the hospital, she often finds herself looking for housing or a hotel when potential hires come to visit.


A boon for all
So CMMC went looking for its own housing, and found what it needed at 802 West Main. Aldrich reported the white colonial topped the list of several properties. Already split into apartments, tenants would have no problem finding the hospital or downtown thanks to the property’s central location.

The purchase was completed in December 2016, and although the money came from the hospital’s operating funds, the hospital’s budget will not need balancing. Aldrich explained CMMC would be reimbursed by its partnerships.

“Some of the programs involved will pay rent,” he said. “They provide a housing allowance.”

Even if it has a slower pay off, Ben Miller thinks CMMC made a good investment. A Pacific Northwestern University of Health Sciences student, he is working at the university’s regional site in Billings for the final years of his degree.

Miller came to Lewistown to complete a one-month emergency medicine rotation. He has spent time across the U.S., from Utah to New York City, to complete his degree and sees ready housing as a bonus. Miller said it could be stressful when students are left on their own to find short-term housing in an unfamiliar area.

“Having our own apartment here is awesome,” he said. “It’s great to have your own space.”

Currently equipped with a kitchen, fridge, microwave and internet, Miller has found he appreciates the privacy of the apartment the most, especially after 12-hour shifts.

“It’s your own space where you go to decompress after a day at the hospital,” he said.

When one med student finds something good about a hospital, it doesn’t take long for the word to spread.

“It’s a huge advantage,” Miller said. “Any time one of us gets a rotation with our own apartment to stay in, we always let everyone else know it’s a great place to go and has great housing.”

Of course, CMMC’s environment may have helped create Miller’s positive review, too.

“Just in general, the hospital here has treated me extremely well,” he said, describing a friendly and supportive environment.

Poser wants that environment to be available to students and residents even after they leave work.

“I wanted the future medical community to have camaraderie together,” she said, explaining the building’s four apartments could help physicians in training create a community of their own in the white colonial.

CMMC’s CEO Mike Dowdy sees it as good move for the hospital as a whole.

“We made this investment to recruit physicians and to make a way for these resident programs to send these students to train,” he said. “[The housing] makes it easy to send students in and it makes Lewistown more attractive.”

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