Community Internal Medicine of Athens

The Augusta University/University of Georgia Medical Partnership Internal Medicine Residency Program in partnership with St. Mary’s Health Care System first started training resident physicians in 2015.

The program has now graduated five classes of residents and is accredited to train up to 37 residents.

Residents are graduates of medical school who are working toward full licensure as independent physicians. The Internal Medicine Residency Program is a three-year program with increasing levels of independence. It’s the final stage in their internal medicine education. At the end of the three-year program, they will sit for their Boards and then either go into practice or continue into training for a specialty.

The residents primarily serve St. Mary’s Hospital in Athens as well as sites at St. Mary’s Good Samaritan Hospital in Greensboro, Georgia, and the Community Internal Medicine of Athens (CIMA).

Founded in August of 2015, CIMA is a clinic dedicated to providing quality patient care to Athens and surrounding areas, and they specialize in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of adults, including the management of certain chronic conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes.

The clinic also aids St. Mary’s Hospital in initiatives to provide for early follow up care for discharged patients. CIMA also allows them the opportunity to develop their ambulatory care skills while serving as the primary care providers for their patients.

“Residents serve as the primary care physician to a diverse patient population including both insured and uninsured patients,” said the residency program director, Dr. Lela Ward. “Because of the wide variety of socioeconomic backgrounds, our residents learn the importance of cost-effective care and other barriers our patients may face in management of their health.”

Chief resident, Dr. Robert Seminara, said CIMA is a rewarding place to practice medicine.

“CIMA provides a great learning environment for residents and delivers exceptional quality of care to every patient,” said Seminara. “There is a great team atmosphere amongst the medical assistants, administrators, residents, and faculty making it both an enjoyable and fulfilling place to work.”

One of CIMA’s goals is to provide a stable environment where patients can receive care—something that is missing from many underinsured citizens’ lives.

“CIMA has been a conduit for both continuity of care and establishing care for many local and newly settled Athens residents,” said Seminara. “It is very rewarding to form a connection with each patient and have an opportunity to become their healthcare advocate.”

“I think all aspects of patient care is rewarding, but I find the experience at CIMA to be very special. Our residents and patients develop a strong relationship to not only improve health and lifestyle but also bolster confidence,” said Ward. “It is very special to see these partnerships develop and be successful.”

In the heart of an underinsured community, CIMA has been a haven for many Athenians.

“Athens-Clarke County and surrounding communities are medically underserved,” said Ward. “CIMA provides primary care for hundreds of patients that would normally not be able to see a primary care provider. Providing follow up care for discharged patients also furthers contributing to the overall health of the Athens community.”

“CIMA champions a learning environment for everyone,” said Seminara. “In an academic setting, the patients become teachers and every patient is heard. Therein lies the platform for patients to take charge of their healthcare and form a unique bond with their physician. Residents also have the privilege to learn from their patient and develop skills that they will be able to call upon throughout their entire career.”

CIMA has undoubtedly helped the Athens-Clarke County community, but CIMA has given back to the Internal Medicine Residency Program as well.

“Not only does CIMA serve the community, but our community also serves CIMA,” said Ward. “Each patient that is seen at CIMA provides a valuable learning opportunity for our residents. We would not be able to provide the diverse and well-rounded education that we pride ourselves on without our patients and community.”

CIMA is currently accepting new patients! If you’re interested in becoming a patient at CIMA or are interested in learning more, click here.

Dr. Maureen Onweni attends to a patient at CIMA in 2019.

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