Rural Health Programs
The focus of the Rural Health Programs in the Department of Community and Rural Medicine is increasing numbers of rural students who prepare for health and medical careers in Rural Alabama and giving them opportunities for rural training experiences. CCHS began this work in the early 1990s in partnership with the Rural Alabama Health Alliance (RAHA), a nonprofit organization representing the health care interests of rural counties in the region surrounding CCHS.
The partnership developed the strategy for an educational pipeline for supplying rural physicians and planned a program for agricultural health and safety. The Rural Health Pipeline Programs support the mission of The University of Alabama College of Community Health Sciences (CCHS), a branch of the University of Alabama School of Medicine, to provide well-trained doctors for rural Alabama and focus on ways to improve health services in rural communities. These programs are directed by John Wheat, MD, MPH, Professor of Community and Rural Medicine at UA’s College of Community Health Sciences, a branch of the University of Alabama School of Medicine.
These efforts resulted in creation of a Rural Health Leaders Pipeline to identify, nurture, and assist rural students to enter medical and health care education and return to rural Alabama as primary care physicians and health practitioners. The Rural Health Pipeline includes a sequence programs for rural students: outreach to elementary and middle school students and residential summer programs on the UA campus for eleventh graders (Rural Health Scholars Program)and recent high school graduates (Rural Minority Scholars Program) as well as the (Rural Medical Scholars Program), a premed and medical education program for college seniors and graduates students that begins in the year before entry into medical school. To date, these Rural Pipeline Programs have served students in rural areas of every county in Alabama, producing for our state a higher percentage of rural physicians than the national average of medical school graduates who choose rural primary care practice.