About Our Family Medicine Residency Program
We are proud of graduating more than 200 family physicians and serving Whittier and its surrounding communities since 1979. The medical staff at PIH Health enjoys participating in the education and training of qualified physicians. As a former resident, I can attest to the quality of training and preparedness residents receive in our program.
Our graduates have gone on to practice family medicine in rural and large-group urban settings, Indian health practices, the inner city, and academic centers. The vast majority of graduates practice in Southern California; many remain in the immediate areas and become members of the hospital’s medical staff.
We welcome interested residents to complete the application process. Interested medical students, PA students, and NP students should also consider a clerkship at our facility.
Virag Y. Shah MD, Program Director
The PIH Health Family Medicine Center
The Family Medicine Center, established in 1979 within PIH Health, is located in a building next to PIH Health Hospital - Whittier. The Family Medicine Center consists of approximately 10,000 square feet, which are dedicated to the office practice of the family Medicine residents and faculty. There is a waiting room, business office, 3 nurses’ stations, and 18 consultation examination rooms. There are also two procedure rooms.
Videotaping and monitoring is available to enhance the teaching potential of the busy practice. In addition to the clinical area, medical education and faculty offices are located in the same building. The Family Medicine Center handles over 2,000 patient visits per month.
Of the 4,800 physicians newly licensed in California last year, about 80 percent came from other states, even though licensure requirements in this state are among the most stringent in the United States. The reason is obvious -- the living is good, especially in Southern California where a wide variety of recreational activities are available.
Do you like to ski, hike, surf, and sail? Or do you like to watch professional and college basketball, tennis, soccer, hockey? How about music, the arts, good food, chic fashion, the casual life? This is all available to you in Southern California. The city of Whittier overlooks the beautiful slopes of the La Puente Hills and is conveniently located to all of these venues and more:
- Stand-alone unopposed residency in a 548-bed state of the art hospital
- Stable program established and fully accredited for over 34 years
- Fully staffed Emergency Room
- One-on-one teaching from Attending Physicians
- Three Critical Care Units with Family Medicine continuity
- LAC+USC Medical Center combined curriculum in intern year
- Family Medicine Center on hospital campus
- Family Medicine Tropical Medicine Program
- Family Medicine Palliative Care Program
- Family Medicine Home Visit / Geriatric Program
Whittier was established in approximately 1887 as a small Quaker town. Health care in this community has centered around the family physician. PIH Health Hospital - Whittier opened in 1959 with the majority of its patients being admitted and cared for by general practitioners. The Hospital has seen incredible change and growth in the over 50 years it’s been in existence, including becoming one of the largest Integrated Delivery Health systems in the area, with the formation of PIH Health.
In the early 1960’s, university teaching programs were strongly embracing a concept of specialization and sub-specialization and the Whittier community followed suit. Later, in the 1960’s a rekindling of general practice occurred with the birth of a new specialty based on tried and true methods – that of family Medicine. This new specialty was associated with a three-year residency program. The American Board of Family Medicine was developed and written boards followed the residency training to accredit individuals in family Medicine.
By the late 1970’s, PIH Health was looking for new and younger physicians in primary care specialties to expand the primary care services in the Whittier area. At the same time, the USC School of Medicine wanted to utilize community hospitals as family Medicine residency programs. Therefore in 1979 after much planning, a combination program, the USC-PIH Health Family Medicine Residency Program began utilizing intern training at LA County-USC Medical Center and two subsequent years at PIH Health. The PIH Health medical staff and administration worked to establish this program so that the new breed of family physicians would be trained locally and hopefully choose this area as a future practice site. The partnership continued with USC until 2001, when the PIH Health Residency grew into a freestanding community residency program. In 2005 the PIH Health Residency teamed up with the University of California Irvine, and now enjoys a strong academic affiliation with the University and its Department of Family Medicine.
The program saw patients for the first time in July of 1979 at which time there were six-second year residents and six first year residents. The first Family Medicine Center, located within the hospital, was built using private donations and hospital funds, and encompassed 5,300 square feet of space. The Family Medicine Center moved to its current location in January 2000. There are approximately 25,000 outpatient visits each year and 5,800 in-patient encounters. Patient demographics are similar to that of the private practitioners in Whittier.
Since its inception and accreditation in 1979, the PIH Health Family Medicine Residency Program has developed under the wisdom and stewardship of 7 program directors:
- Donald Hagan, MD - was the first program director.
- L. Robert Martin, MD - was an expert in medical education and training and was one of the founders of the American Academy of Family Physicians.
- Theodore W. Zwemer, MD - had over twenty years of private practice experience in Whittier. Prior to becoming program director, he had been a faculty member since the program’s inception.
- Del Morris, MD - was program director for 6 years before moving to rural Northern California.
- Ana Bejinez-Eastman, MD - was a faculty member prior to taking on the directorship, which she held from 2000 to 2005.
- Virag Shah, MD – steered the program into the 21st Century, from 2005 to 2016, and was co-director of the Chronic Disease/Palliative Care Track.
- Nelson Dalla Tor, MD – in 2016, after serving 10 years as a faculty member and 5 years as co-director of the Chronic Disease/Palliative Care Track, took over the helm from Dr. Virag Shah to continue the program’s mission of providing residents with a rich, broad-based, and multi-disciplinary graduate medical education that is built on a culturally responsive foundation.
The PIH Health Family Medicine Residency links the academic LAC + USC Medical Center with a general community hospital in order to provide an intensive academic, as well as pragmatic, training opportunity.
The first year of three-year residency program provides rotations at Los Angeles County + USC Keck School of Medicine Medical. Second and third year residents are based at PIH Health in Whittier.
The LAC+USC Medical Center is one of the largest teaching hospitals in the world where residents receive an intensive inpatient and outpatient experience, and are exposed to a variety of subspecialty clinics which offers a broad experience of multi-problem patients under the supervision of full-time faculty members of the USC-Keck School of Medicine. There are 1,600 volunteer physicians, 450 staff physicians and over 900 residents from all over the country, as well as 600 medical students. With an average daily census of 1,056, the Healthcare Network employs over 9,000 professionals. County hospital serves many of the indigent population for the region with more than 100,000 visits through the Emergency Department annually. Located in the community of East Los Angeles/Boyle Heights, the hospital is just 20 miles northwest of PIH Health.
The PIH Health Family Medicine Residency is proud to be affiliated with the UCI Department of Family Medicine.