Rural Medical Scholars

Interested in being a rural physician? Attend our workshop “Preparing To Be a Rural Physician” presented by the Rural Medical Scholars Program on March 3, 2012. Click here for a tentative schedule and more info.

The mission of the Rural Medical Scholars Program is to produce physicians for rural Alabama who are leaders in developing healthy communities. The Rural Medical Scholars Program was established in 1996 at the UA College of Community Health Sciences and is directed by John Wheat, MD,MPH, Professor of Community Medicine and Internal Medicine. This program is open to college seniors and graduate students who plan to go to medical school and practice medicine in a rural area. The program is based in Tuscaloosa and conducted by CCHS, a branch of the University of Alabama School of Medicine. As part of their RMSP premed experience, the Scholars take graduate level courses; participate in farm field trips; shadow rural physicians; conduct or assist with health fairs and screenings or other community service projects, and attend lectures and workshops pertaining to rural community health topics.

Ten qualified students from rural areas are chosen each year to enter the Rural Medical Scholars Program, a highly selective premed and medical education program of The University of Alabama and the University of Alabama School of Medicine (UASOM). Admission is based on high academic achievement, character, rural identity, and leadership qualities. Eligible applicants have lived in a rural Alabama county for at least eight years and have taken or registered to take the MCAT (Medical School Admission Test). If selected, a Rural Medical Scholar is enrolled at The University of Alabama in the year prior to entry into medical school (UASOM) and takes coursework each semester related to rural health or the practice of primary care in rural areas and participates in special seminars, community service projects, and field trips which enrich his or her knowledge of what a career in rural medicine entails. Provided the student meets the entrance requirements for admission to the University of Alabama School of Medicine (UASOM), he or she has a reserved slot in the next year’s class. After two years of study in Birmingham, Rural Medical Scholars return to Tuscaloosa for the final two years of medical school which consist of clinical training. Throughout the program, Rural Medical Scholars maintain peer support group activities, receive collegial support and mentorship from rural practitioners, and receive continued administrative contact and support throughout medical training.

The tenth class of Rural Medical Scholars graduated from the University of Alabama School of Medicine in May 2010, and began residency training. The fifteenth class entered the program in August of 2010. Including the 2010-2011 RMS class, 154 students have become Rural Medical Scholars. Forty-six of the of the Rural Medical Scholars who have completed their medical training have entered practice in Alabama, while others are still in various stages of medical school, residency, fellowship or post graduate study. Of these 33 RMS graduates are primary care physicians in rural areas and small towns in Alabama. Thirteen other RMS graduates are also in practive in the state, either in non-primary care fields or working in the state’s larger cities.

The Rural Medical Scholars Program at The University of Alabama has achieved national recognition as a leader in rural medical education. Particular strengths of the program are its established network of state and local partners, practicing physicians as mentors, and a strong peer support group through classmates and those ahead of you in the pipeline. With fifteen years of experience, a consistent and accomplished faculty, and a curriculum focused on rural community medicine, agromedicine topics, and leadership in building healthy communities, RMSP offers rural Alabama students an encouraging and supportive environment in which to prepare for their future as rural primary care doctors.