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Family Medicine Residency Partnership with The Children’s Center of Utah

The Children’s Center of Utah was created in 1962 to provide treatment for trauma experienced by Utah children and their families, regardless of their socioeconomic status. The Center is one of the top places in the nation for treating infants, toddlers, and preschoolers who have experienced trauma, as well as providing holistic training for individuals who work with traumatized children such as teachers, clinicians, and parents.

In January of 2023, Susan Cochella MD, Katherine Fortenberry PhD and a team of Family Medicine Residency leaders received a HRSA grant to enhance mental health training for treating vulnerable populations in the U of U Family Medicine residency. A primary goal of this grant was to establish a partnership with the Children’s Center. The team adapted a portion of the residency curricula to integrate the activities of the Center and resident’s training, building residents’ skills in addressing the unique challenges in treating children with trauma experiences and providing onsite experience working with children and families.

Children's Center

As part of the partnership, Family Medicine residents spend a month in the Children’s Center in the second year of their residency. They attend therapy sessions and are part of the preschool program, interacting and playing with children one-on-one as they practice the skills they have learned in engaging children and families from traumatic backgrounds. Additionally, Family Medicine faculty are also encouraged to participate in skill building sessions, gaining knowledge and building skills alongside the residents they oversee.

In addition to this practical training, Fortenberry cites the Children’s Center focus on holistic care and family-centered wellness as an overlap with the Residency Program’s philosophy. At the Center, parents as well as children receive support, giving the entire family help they need to build resilience and create healthy environments for children. Training family medicine residents how to navigate these sensitive interactions provides an extra layer of support, as those trained in the program will then have the skills for accommodating children with trauma in their own practices.

“It’s a beautiful alignment of missions,” she says. “The hope is that as our residents learn to interact with these families, they can learn how to begin to break the cycles of trauma. The Center can’t treat every traumatized kid in the state of Utah, but if they can train those who treat the children it really makes an impact.”