New Physicians Graduate from Freeman Health System’s Residency Physician Program

(Joplin, MO)Freeman Health System’s Graduate Medical Education program draws talented physicians to Joplin for essential training, and more than a few remain with Freeman to practice medicine.

On June 16, 2023, in the Missouri Southern State University Billingsly Student Center ballroom, 13 new physicians received their long-awaited residency diplomas during a graduation ceremony. Freeman offers training in four residency fields: Emergency Medicine; Ear, Nose, and Throat; Family Medicine; and Internal Medicine.

The graduating physicians include:

  • Emergency Medicine: Justin Orren, Kiara Angelina Pendergraft, Nina Devi Pinjala, Christina Schramm, Zachary Vincent, and Gregory Wallis.
  • Internal Medicine: Melanie Akuna, Zachary S. Anderson, Sofiya Azim, Adam Lawrence Magiera, and Ashley Brooke Vincent.
  • Ear, Nose, and Throat: Vanessa E. Halvorsen and Kellee Nicole Neal

As a teaching hospital, Freeman provides resident physicians the opportunity to study side by side with some of the most knowledgeable and dedicated physicians in the country.

“The way physician education works is they do four years of medical school,” Stephanie Lea, Director of Freeman’s Medical Education program. “Now, after medical school they each get that lovely MD or DO title but they really can’t do anything with it until they first complete their residency. So that’s where we come into play here.”

Internal medicine, emergency medicine and family medicine residencies at Freeman last three years, Lea said. Because it’s surgical, the ENT residency is a five-year program. Add in the years from undergraduate studies, and some of Friday’s new physicians have been in training for more than 12 years — a huge time commitment for them.

“Once they graduate from their residencies, they become a fully licensed, board-certified physician. They can go out into the world, though we hope a lot of them stay here at Freeman,” Lea said. “It’s a major step for them. I’ve been doing this for 13 years, so I feel like I’ve raised them.”

In total, Freeman provides clinical rotations to more than 100 medical students in the United States each year.

About Freeman Health System

Locally owned, not-for-profit and nationally recognized, Freeman Health System includes Freeman Hospital West, Freeman Hospital East, Freeman Neosho Hospital and Ozark Center — the area’s largest provider of behavioral health services — as well as two urgent care clinics, dozens of physician clinics and a variety of specialty services. In 2020, Freeman earned dozens of individual awards for medical excellence and patient safety from CareChex®, a quality rating system that helps consumers evaluate healthcare providers. U.S. News & World Report named Freeman Health System the Best Hospital in Southwest Missouri for 2020. With more than 320 physicians on staff representing more than 80 specialties, Freeman provides cancer care, heart care, neurology and neurosurgery, orthopaedics, children’s services and women’s services. Additionally, Freeman is the only Children’s Miracle Network Hospital in a 70-mile radius. For more information, visit


Kevin McClintock
Freeman Health System

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