A $3 million gift from the Leon Levine Foundation to Carolinas HealthCare System will be used to launch a residency training program in psychiatry at Carolinas Medical Center, officials announced Wednesday.
The first class of three psychiatric residents will enter the four-year program in July 2017. The program will help meet a pressing need for physicians providing behavioral health services in this region, hospital and foundation officials said at a news conference on the CMC campus.
The Leon Levine Foundation, named for the founder of Family Dollar stores and his wife, Sandra, has previously made substantial gifts to Carolinas HealthCare. They include $20 million to create Levine Cancer Institute, $10 million for Levine Children’s Hospital and $3 million for a 66-bed psychiatric hospital in Davidson. The latter is named after the Levines’ daughter, Mindy Ellen Levine, who died in 1988 at the age of 25 after an extended illness.
“Rarely do you get to see something so meaningful as exactly the right gift at exactly the right moment for an area of great need,” said Dr. Roger Ray, the hospital system’s chief physician executive. “It is a great moment.”
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Although Charlotte does not have a medical school, CMC has had an academic medical residency program since the 1940s. Today, it trains about 300 residents and fellows in more than 30 specialty areas. And since 2010, CMC also operated a branch campus of the UNC-Chapel Hill medical school.
The hospital system will recruit a director for the psychiatry residency program, and the program will train 12 doctors at a time once it is full. They will get experience in behavioral health, primary care, neurosciences and other medical and surgical settings.
They will also work at a variety of Carolinas HealthCare locations that offer inpatient, outpatient and school-based services, crisis assistance and residential treatment programs. They include the Davidson hospital, Behavioral Health Charlotte on Billingsley Road, Carolinas Medical Center-Mercy, Carolinas HealthCare System NorthEast, Stanly Regional Medical Center and Union Behavioral Health First Step.
Dr. John Santopietro, chief clinical officer for behavioral health services at Carolinas HealthCare, said the Levines’ gift provides momentum for the system’s ability to increase the supply of well-trained psychiatrists and continue its efforts to provide comprehensive, integrated services for people with mental health problems.
“Here’s a foundation that could pay attention to anything, and they’re paying attention to this,” Santopietro said. “Here at Carolinas HealthCare System, we are not backing away (from behavioral health care). We are not even standing still. We are leaning into this problem because it’s the right thing to do.”