The Programs (cont'd.)
Dr. Dennis Dimitri, who entered the Hahnemann residency in 1979 and now holds the position of the FMCH department's Vice Chair for Clinical Practice, was quite aware of Gerry Commons and his importance to the program at Dean Street, even though he had had little direct contact with him:
[Dean Street] was an interesting physical plant because it was right on the edge of the WPI campus, and my understanding is it had previously been a WPI fraternity house building. It was a rather odd-looking concrete bunker-like building that had been, I would guess it had probably been turned into a health center 2 or 3 years before that, not too long. And the person who had been most critical in developing that residency site was a local family physician named Gerry Commons … but Gerry Commons had been in private practice in that general neighborhood for many many years, and he had also functioned, because of his proximity to WPI, as the college health doctor for a long time.
So when the residency program developed, he brought his private practice into the Dean Street site, and his private practice formed the nidus for the development of the residency program. Unfortunately, I never really got to know Gerry Commons because he got sick right around that time and was not practicing when I came up to do my elective there, and he actually died I think the summer after that, like in the summer of 1979, I guess that would have been. His portrait actually still hangs in the current health center site, it's been moved from Dean Street over to the 279 Lincoln Street office; there's still remembrance of the sort of founding father of that health center.(77)
Considered an "urban/suburban" practice model, Hahnemann FHC drew its ambulatory patients from urban Worcester as well as from the more suburban west side of the city. It was affiliated with Hahnemann Community Hospital and Holden District Hospitals. The administrators of both hospitals, it turned out, were well known to Dick Walton, and were convinced of his argument that they had a lot to gain from the presence of family medicine residents admitting patients to, and practicing on, the wards. Today, with Hahnemann Hospital transformed into an outpatient facility of UMass Med, the Hahnemann Family Health Center practices from offices located there, continuing to see many patients from the first years of its program.
The program at Hahnemann, much like the other Worcester programs, cultivated a warmth among faculty and residents that facilitated constructive mentoring, according to many graduates we interviewed. For example, Dennis Dimitri recalled that,
The traditional thing that most of the faculty would do a lot of times on weekends when we were on call, is the faculty person you were on call with a lot of times would have you, and your spouse if you had one, over for dinner, say on Saturday night of the weekend that you were on call together. So it was an opportunity to get to know the faculty and their families in a casual, small environment where you really felt like you were more friends and colleagues rather than in that somewhat more intimidating teacher-supervisor role. I think that was a great way to generate a degree of closeness and it certainly, I think, improved faculty's ability to understand what issues or problems or concerns residents had, so it was a bit of an extra, above and beyond the usual call, that I think was a really wonderful thing. I'm not sure how much of that goes on anymore, but I do remember that as something that the folks at Hahnemann did pretty regularly back in those days.(78)
Fitchburg Family Practice
The Fitchburg Family Practice residency was founded in 1979 by Dr. Robert Babineau, Sr. and, although affiliated with UMass, is accredited as a separate program. Dr. Babineau grew up in Fitchburg and then went to Boston University Medical School, graduating in 1946. He held a one-year rotating internship at what was then called Maine General Hospital, in Portland, Maine, then served in the Army for two years, "because they had paid for my medical education; so, I paid back with two years in the Army." After creating a successful practice in his home town in 1951, Babineau turned it into an affiliated residency in Family Medicine (a significant financial and organizational commitment to furthering the presence of family physicians in the state:
I enjoyed being a family doctor, enjoyed taking care of families, and then just to switch to getting involved with younger doctors who I was training who, I thought, wanted to do the same thing I did, was very satisfying.
Len Finn, a graduate of the first class at UMass Medical School in 1974 and of the Worcester Family Medicine residency in 1977 remembered Babineau from his third year clerkship as a med student:
[In the third year] there was a Family Medicine clerkship. I did my clerkship with Bob Babineau Sr., whose practice became the foundation of the Fitchburg Family Medicine Residency. Bob was an outstanding teacher and a wonderful person. He had the unusual skill of being able to give his total attention to a patient so they felt totally listened to and given all the time in the world, and yet he always stayed on schedule. He finished on time every day, he had his notes finished on time every day, he was on schedule with every patient, and he was beloved by his patients and they never felt rushed. [He was a] very organized guy. He was on the school committee in his town, he was active in the Mass Academy of Family Physicians. He turned his practice into a residency program. He went home and had lunch with his wife everyday, and then came back in the afternoon and saw his patients. He delivered babies, he participated in the delivery of my first daughter in 1977. He was a full service family physician with obstetrics and he had been a preceptor for medical students and was for me.(79)
Babineau actively worked with the Massachusetts Academy of Family Physicians to develop networks of practitioners throughout the state to be preceptors for the Fitchburg residents. Significantly, by 1976 he had recruited three other faculty for the program, including his son, Dr. Robert Babineau, Jr., all of whom were themselves graduates of pioneering family medicine residencies. "Actually, when we developed the residency program, we had just moved into a new building," Babineau told us, "where we had fortunately enough space so that the residents could work in our building, so we had about four doctors' offices - it was a two-story building, and they kind of worked right along with us in our office. In those days, when the program got going, we didn't get to 12 residents until towards the end of the time I was involved in it, and we didn't build special offices for them, that's the new way, that's why it's so expensive now."