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The National Capital Consortium (NCC) Psychiatry Graduate Medical Education (GME) Program based at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC) recently earned a five-year accreditation from the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME).

“This means our medical center can see more patients with a larger variety of diagnoses. We are at the cutting edge with psychiatry research including Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, suicide prevention, PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) research, TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) research, and the latest treatments,” explained Army Lt. Col. Scott Moran, training director for the NCC psychiatry residency program, and who serves as acting asst. deputy commander for the WRNMMC Behavioral Health Department.

Patients benefit because the accreditation ensures residents are training in the latest psychiatry standards of care research in mind, Moran added. A physician can obtain a state medical license only when their training program is accredited by the ACGME, so accreditation is crucial, he said.

“ACGME accreditation is to medical education as Joint Commission accreditation is to hospital operations,” Moran continued. “It won’t happen without the other.”

According to the ACGME, which is responsible for the accreditation of post-MD medical training programs within the U.S., accreditation is accomplished through a peer review process and based upon established standards and guidelines. The organization also requires an accredited Psychiatry GME program to maintain a large involved faculty as well as an adequate patient base, case mix and facilities.

“The recent accreditation for the program is important to the residency because it certifies what we’ve known all along that we are participating in a great program that does an excellent job of preparing us to be military psychiatrists after graduation,” explained Army Capt. Shannon Schuerger, a fourth-year psychiatry resident who participated in the accreditation visit and answered questions of the site inspector.

The Soldier said the psychiatry GME program has been both challenging and rewarding. “My residency has prepared me to be flexible and capable for wherever my next assignment will take me.”

There are 44 psychiatry residents and seven psychiatry fellows in the NCC GME program. “We have about 50 staff psychiatrists: 10 military, 27 civilians, [and] 13 contractors,” explained Moran. “It is the largest psychiatry training program in the DOD and one of the bigger ones in the country.”

The NCC GME Program boasts nearly 70 residency and fellowship training programs at Walter Reed Bethesda, along with 20 additional allied health training programs for a combined total of more than 700 trainees, according to GME officials. All of the programs are accredited by their respective bodies; not all under the ACGME, explained Army Col. Brian Belson, assistant deputy commander for education, training and research at WRNMMC.

“In general, the military’s GME programs have longer accreditation period than their civilian counterparts, speaking to the high quality and reputation of the military’s training programs,” Belson said. “The NCC residencies are “joint” in that most of them have Army and Navy slots to fill, and have the ability to fill some Air Force slots. All [of] the programs to some degree involve extramural rotations at outside hospitals with training agreements.”

“Our GME programs are among the top in the country,” explained Army Col. Clifton E. Yu, chief of GME at WRNMMC. The chief cited a cumulative board passage rate of 95 percent for all programs, significantly above the national average of 79 percent across all specialties. The average of 4.4 years for ACGME accreditation (out of a maximum possible of 5 years) for the WRNMMC ACGME accredited programs is significantly above the national average as well, Yu added.

WRNMMC Commander Rear Adm. Alton Stocks congratulated the residents and faculty. “This is quite an accomplishment, especially since the accreditation visit occurred in February, just six months post-BRAC (Base Closure and Realignment),” Stocks said. “You are what makes this Medical Center great! What you do matters.”