Road to One Million

The Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership’s Road to One Million flag waved proudly at a TinCaps baseball game in Fort Wayne after the partnership’s launch of the project.

Northeast Indiana’s “Road to One Million” mission created by the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership has required the efforts and imagination of all of the region’s industries to attract and retain talent to promote population growth.

Some of the heavy hitters in the area are, of course, the various manufacturing companies looking to fill open spots with trained workers. But the three health care systems operating out of Fort Wayne have also carried their fair share of the load when it comes to attracting professionals to the area.

“They have been extraordinarily important,” Michael Galbraith, director for the Road to One Million, said. “When we have the presence of giants like Parkview, Lutheran and IU, they employ tens of thousands of people in our region.”

IU Health is the newest player to enter the Fort Wayne health care game, but has demonstrated a strong dedication to building up its presence in the area. With two medical facilities completed and one under construction, the provider has made a concerted effort to utilize its brand recognition and recruitment methods to draw in new medical professionals.

“We want to make Fort Wayne a little better, and if we just switch physicians here, it’s not necessarily growing Fort Wayne,” IU Health Fort Wayne president Brian Bauer said. “We’re really trying to look …not just outside of Fort Wayne, but the state of Indiana, and bring great talent to Fort Wayne.”

When it comes to retaining local talent as well as bringing in folks that hale from outside these familiar borders, Parkview Health and Lutheran Health Network focus on starting young, launching highly-involved programs that enmesh medical students and recent graduates into the fabric of their networks, encouraging seamless transitions from trainee to treatment provider.

At Parkview, this program is considered a “boot camp,” of sorts, spearheaded by Dr. Michael Mirro, chief academic and research officer. Over the course of 10 weeks, according to Mirro, these young professionals work with a mentor in a clinical or research setting and learn everything from how to write scientifically, HIPPA laws and the nuts and bolts of the field of medicine they are considering.

In conjunction with local schools such the IU School of Medicine and Purdue University, as well as in collaboration with other schools in an around the Midwest, this boot camp has managed to train close to 1,000 professionals, Mirro stated, many of whom stick around.

“The idea was to get them interested enough to come back to Fort Wayne,” Mirro said. “We try to pull in students from various higher educational institutions so that they can get used to it. We’re reaching out beyond our normal borders to try to pull those young people down here.”

The Fort Wayne Medical Education program that LHN participates in has a similar motive as Parkview’s boot camp, but has narrowed its focus to residencies for family care physicians, which northeast Indiana has often experienced a serious shortage of. Konow added that they have also made a concerted effort to attract people with ties to the Midwest in hopes that it will make Fort Wayne an easier place to transition their life and work to.

“We take students and rotate them through our practices that way they get mentoring from our specialists and get them introduced to our family practice physicians,” Lutheran Health Physicians CEO Dan Konow said. “By introducing the medical staff and let them meet families and patients, we get them really integrated and start building those relationships.”

The biggest challenge in recruitment, according to Konow, is simply jumping onto people’s radars and proving to those professionals that Fort Wayne has a lot to offer and is worth their consideration.

“We don’t have to sell really hard,” Konow said. “Fort Wayne is a great town. It’s got great education, very family friendly, and there’s a low cost of living. Once people get here, it’s like ‘Why would I want to leave?’”

Once those professionals are hooked, Galbraith added, they often bring their expertise to Fort Wayne as well as a family, meaning when one moves, one or two or even three others may follow. These extra people will buy things and experiences locally and inject more capital into the area, as well as set a higher standard for education.

“Not only are they bringing in high wage, high skilled people, they’re usually bringing in the spouses that tend to be high wage and high skilled as well,” Galbraith said. “So they’re, in many respects, a twofer. They tend to help us get to that goal that we have as region of making our population increase, making our credential attainment increase.”

Population growth is more than just a numbers game, Galbraith pointed out. As an industry that figuratively, and literally, has its finger on the pulse of what northeast Indiana wants and needs, it has stepped up to do its own part in making the area’s quality of life more appealing to other prospective employees and families looking for a place to live.

“The medical community has been supportive of our regional initiatives and making sure our trails continue to expand,” Galbraith said. “Similarly, there are their ideas around making sure we don’t have food deserts and that all residents in northeast Indiana have access to good quality health care and foodstuffs as part of a healthier lifestyle.”

The methods of recruitment and attainment used by these health systems, Galbraith pointed out, are not exclusive to the industry. In fact, many of the other industries and employers found in northeast Indiana could benefit from taking a page out of the health care systems’ book.

“The medical industry has really been on the leading edge,” Galbraith said. “We are beyond the era where you can just hire people. We need to be in the area where you’re actively recruiting them…We have some doing an extraordinary job being out there recruiting, and we have some that it’s a harder transition of the idea.”

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