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University of Minnesota/CentraCare Willmar Rural Family Medicine Residency Program Receives Accreditation

Published in Media Releases

CentraCare and the University of Minnesota are proud to announce a significant milestone in healthcare education: the accreditation of its three-year, rural family medicine residency program, by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME).

“This is the first Rural Training Program residency in the state of Minnesota and the result of a great partnership with CentraCare’s Willmar clinic, the Minnesota Department of Health, and our Medical School,” said Shailey Prasad, MD MPH, Associate Vice President for Global and Rural Health at the University of Minnesota’s Medical School. “The magic ingredient in bringing this residency to fruition is our relationship with CentraCare.”

With the first cohort set to begin in 2025, this accreditation marks the dawn of a new era in rural healthcare training in Minnesota.

“Accreditation is a significant milestone. It has taken a team of dedicated individuals across many organizations that have worked hard to create this robust program,” said Program Director Richard Wehseler, MD. “Up to this point many things were theoretical, and while there have been several milestones on our path to develop this program, receiving accreditation is a big one.”

Currently, as the only rural family medicine program in Minnesota, this accreditation opens doors for medical students seeking specialized training in rural healthcare.

“This is exciting news and something we had been anticipating,” said Molly Gardner, Rural Residency Coordinator. “With this announcement, we can begin preparation for interviewing fourth-year medical students this fall in order to choose the top candidates to become our first class of residents.”

The program, which will hold training at CentraCare – Willmar Lakeland Clinic and CentraCare – Rice Memorial Hospital, aims to train two new family medicine physicians a year. Dr. Wehseler emphasized the program's importance to the community noting, “The presence of a residency program has a far-reaching impact. Studies indicate that a program yields numerous positive outcomes and invigorates the entire area. This endeavor will significantly benefit not just Willmar, but the wider region.”

This accreditation represents the culmination of a collaborative effort involving various organizations and individuals. From the University of Minnesota Department of Family Medicine and Community Health to the Minnesota Department of Health, the CentraCare system, and local backing across Greater Minnesota, the program has garnered widespread support.