Jeff McDannel knew pretty early on that he might want to stay in Kennewick.
The young doctor, a native of Arizona, moved to the area three years ago to start his internal medicine residency at Trios Health.
He liked the climate, the outdoor opportunities, the supportive environment he found at the hospital.
And he fell in love with a Trios surgical technologist, Chelsea Coyne. They’ve been together for two years.
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So it’s no surprise that McDannel, 31, who celebrated his graduation from the residency program on Friday, has elected to stay local.
I feel really lucky and blessed that I was given the opportunity to do residency here. ... I’m excited I get to stay in a place I’ve really grown to love.
Dr. Jeff McDannel, the first graduate of Trios’ residency program to choose to practice in the Tri-Cities
He’s taking a job as a Trios hospitalist, starting this fall. It’s an exciting step for him, he said.
“I’m feeling pretty lucky. It’s a great fit,” he told the Herald.
And it’s a big deal for Trios.
The Kennewick public hospital system started its residency program in 2013, in part to build up the local pipeline of primary care physicians as a nationwide shortage looms.
“With Dr. McDannel staying on, this is a culmination of that,” said Lisa Teske, Trios spokeswoman. “We are really excited to have one of our first residents stay here, to care for patients here.”
McDannel is part of Trios’ second graduating class of residents, and he’s the first resident to stick around and practice locally.
The hope is that even more residents in future classes will opt to put down roots and practice in town, Teske said.
A residency is an intensive, hands-on training period that follows medical school. Physicians must complete a residency to become licensed and board certified.
Trios’ program — which includes family medicine and internal medicine tracks — was the first in the Tri-Cities. Kadlec started its own family medicine residency program in 2015.
McDannel said residency was challenging — with long hours, some tough cases, he said. But it was enriching and fulfilling, too.
“The impact you get to make on people’s lives — you get a lot of personal reward from that, from helping somebody else,” he said.
McDannel hails from the Phoenix area, attending Arizona State University as an undergraduate and going on to medical school at Arizona College of Osteopathic Medicine.
Growing up, a close family friend was a physician, and McDannel remembers the trust that friend inspired in others.
“Everybody had respect for his knowledge. He was a person you could go to,” McDannel said. “I thought, if (medicine) was something that was in my capacity to do, I’d want to do it.”
So he did. At Trios, he’s found not only a place to call home, but also a place to thrive professionally, to win respect and help people.
Teske said McDannel and his fellow residents “have shown themselves to be true caregivers, right from the heart.” They’re a dedicated bunch, she said.
As McDannel and his residency classmates move on to the next phases in their careers, a new class of nine first-year residents starts Monday.
They bring the program to 21 current residents total, across all three years.
At Kadlec, a new group of six first-year residents is starting training, bringing that program’s total to 18 residents across the three years.
Kadlec will graduate its first class of residents in 2018.
McDannel said Trios’ program has prepared him well to step out on his own as a physician.
In his role as a hospitalist, he’ll treat patients admitted to the hospital. He’ll also help train new generations of doctors — helping teach and supervise the residents coming up after him.
On the eve of graduation, he reflected on his time as a resident. He talked about interactions with patients, about fun times with colleagues.
About his future in the Tri-Cities.
“I feel really lucky and blessed that I was given the opportunity to do residency here. Through my experiences, the highs and the lows of residency training, it’s finally time to take that next step,” he said. “I’m excited I get to stay in a place I’ve really grown to love.”