Two weeks after University Hospitals Medical Center announced the decision to close the family medicine residency training program at its main campus, more than 160 Case Western Reserve University medical students wrote to UH officials this week expressing their concerns. 

In the letter, medical students said ending the program will hinder access to healthcare and ultimately hurt patients in underserved communities who rely on the Cleveland medical center’s primary care services. (University Hospitals Medical Center continues to offer primary care services for underserved patients at Rainbow Ahuja Medical Center for Women and Children and Otis Moss Jr. Health Center, which are located near the main campus.) 

Students said that without the program, fewer people will be trained in primary care medicine. They also said losing the program will make it more difficult for medical students and new doctors to find mentors.  

“Discontinuing the Family Medicine Residency training program at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center is a demonstration of disinvestment in primary care, with detrimental consequences to the surrounding community, the medical professional community, and local medical students,” the letter said. 

In September, the medical center announced in an email to program staff that it would stop recruiting family medicine residents to the main campus for the next academic year. The email said it would continue to train residents currently enrolled in the program, which is a three-year training and education curriculum at Case Western Reserve University. 

The email said the family medicine residency program will continue to train residents at the UH campuses in Westlake and Chardon. 

The program’s leadership has not discussed the decision publicly and did not respond to a request for comment on the students’ letter. 

Case Western Reserve University medical students (left to right) Ellen Hutchinson, Carlee Mitchell and Akshatha Silas deliver a signed letter to University Hospitals Medical Center officials Tuesday.
Case Western Reserve University medical students (left to right) Ellen Hutchinson, Carlee Mitchell and Akshatha Silas deliver the letter to University Hospitals Medical Center officials Tuesday. Credit: courtesy of Ellen Hutchinson

Hannah Clarke, a third-year medical student at Case, said when she found out the program was ending, she believed it was important to share the news with her classmates and rally them. So she and a few other students drafted the letter and circulated it over the last two weeks, gathering 168 signatures. 

“The main thing every single one of us asked was, ‘Why?,’” Clarke said. “This was a way for us to get this information out there to our peers and let [University Hospitals] decision makers know that there’s medical students who care about what’s going on.” 

Olivia Mangat Dhaliwal, a fourth-year medical student at Case,  said it was important for students to deliver the letter to program officials in person. She hopes officials will think about how ending the program will affect healthcare in the region. 

“It shows that this is one of many faces training in medicine right now who contributed and is delivering that letter,” Dhaliwal said. “I hope they ask what is [University Hospitals’] responsibility to the community it serves and what its decision says about [how it serves the community].”

Health Reporter (she/her)
Candice, a Cleveland Documenter since 2020, has been a freelance writer whose reporting and digital media work have appeared in The Daily Beast, VICE, Cleveland Magazine and elsewhere. She has written about health, equity and social justice.