Amplify expertise – Foundation Health Partners

Mayo Clinic's mentorship imparts knowledge, hands-on experience

Michael Strum, M.D., talks with a patient

Member: Foundation Health Partners, Fairbanks, Alaska

When patients make the trek to see Michael Strum, M.D., at Tanana Valley Clinic, he does all he can to make the visit both comprehensive and efficient. He knows that many of his patients might not be able to step foot in another medical facility for months. In fact, he can knows a number of patients charter bush planes to fly them in from remote locations — just for their appointments.

"Consolidating questions and issues into one visit is necessary," Dr. Strum says.

Fairbanks, the largest city in the interior region of Alaska, has about 32,000 residents. The surrounding Fairbanks North Star Borough — where many of Dr. Strum's patients live — includes a population of about 96,000.

Because of the remote location and relatively small population, there are no board-certified gastroenterologists practicing within 350 miles of the city. Those needs have traditionally been met by general internists like Dr. Strum. But as training programs become harder to find, so have those specialists and that expertise.

"The ability to be proficient in endoscopy and gastroenterology is vital to provide the best possible care for my patients," says Dr. Strum.

That's why he's grateful to Mayo Clinic for a jump-start in training. Foundation Health Partners, which encompasses Tanana Valley Clinic, is a member of Mayo Clinic Care Network. Through this collaboration, Dr. Strum and three other providers were able to travel to Mayo Clinic for basic endoscopic education.

During this time, the providers gained hands-on experience with colonoscopy and esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD) simulators and learned about safety precautions and sedation administration. After returning to Fairbanks, the providers practiced and improved their skills through outpatient colonoscopies and elective EGDs under the guidance of Foundation Health Partners' medical director. They're now providing these services independently.

"I love practicing here in Fairbanks and can't imagine working anywhere else," says Dr. Strum. "Through Mayo Clinic's resources, mentorship and world-class specialists, I've been afforded invaluable exposure and experience so I can continue practicing here and providing excellent care."

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