“See a need, fill a need,” Bigweld said in the animated film “Robots.”

That enterprising quote applies to a major need in Northwest Oklahoma, where we’ve been without a residency program since Enid’s crucial training network for physicians closed in 2016.

For the last three years, a leadership coalition — including the Enid Regional Development Alliance, the Oklahoma State University Medical Authority, St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center and Integris Bass Baptist Health Center — has worked toward starting another residency program in Enid.

It’s needed for several reasons. We know providing a vital support network means expanded access, which obviously improves health outcomes in our area. And physicians tend to stay where they complete their residencies, making retention a beneficial byproduct when you consider our state’s serious doctor shortage.

Fortunately, the Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust (TSET) Board of Directors voted July 19 to expand its partnership with the Oklahoma State University Medical Authority to support the launch of medical residency training programs in Enid.

Using the remaining grant commitment balance of $2,391,294 from TSET, OSU Medical Authority announced in July it would begin a hospital residency program at St. Mary’s and Integris in Enid.

This is a crucial piece to start solving the puzzle for our community. For now, the coalition is still evaluating, and this funding will be added to that evaluation.

“The announcement from TSET of the financial grant of $1.25 million in start-up funds can now be applied to our proforma, and is one of the deciding factors in the viability of the program,” said Lisa Powell, ERDA executive director.

Questions remain, and most of them deal with money. After the eventual launch, a major consideration is the cost of operations. Another key will be maintaining long-term sustainability once a medical residency program is restarted.

While no decision has been made of when to restart the program, this funding commitment is a good first step. We hope the coalition soon reaches a consensus to move forward toward having a residency training program return to our community.

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