Rural Medical Scholars recognized at convocation

Ten students who want to become physicians and practice in rural communities were recognized April 23 at a convocation for the Rural Medical Scholars Program, which is operated by the College of Community Health Sciences.

The program is exclusively for rural Alabama students and includes a year of study, after students receive their undergraduate degree, that leads to a master’s degree in Rural Community Health and early admission to the University of Alabama School of Medicine. Rural medical Scholars spend the first two years of medical school at the School of Medicine’s main campus in Birmingham and then return to the College for their final two years of clinical education. The 10 graduates begin medical school this summer.

“Our mission is to produce physicians for rural Alabama who are leaders in their communities,” said Dr. John Wheat, founder and director of the Rural Medical Scholars Program.

State Sen. Gerald Dial of Lineville, Alabama, a former chair of the Senate Health Committee, provided the keynote address. He stressed to the student how important they will be to the communities where they will one day practice.

“In addition to providing medical services, a rural physician opens economic opportunities for communities. You can’t put a value on a rural physician, it means everything. You provide life to a community.”

Also during the convocation, the Rural Medical Scholars Program Distinguished Service Award was presented to Dr. Nathan Smith, who served as an assistant dean for Students and Admissions at the School of Medicine for many years and who is now a professor and vice chairman of the Department of Psychiatry there.

“Rural is close to my heart,” he said, noting that he was raised in Rockledge, Alabama. “Of all that I did as assistant dean of admissions, I am most proud of my involvement with the Rural Medical Scholars Program, and I am grateful for all that has been accomplished through these programs.”

Emily Sutton, a junior at UA majoring in Biology who has participated in other Rural Pipeline programs, received the Rural Alabama Health Alliance Student Award. “I love this program – its mission and purpose. I’m thankful for the program investing in me.”

Partners of the Rural Medical Scholars Program were also recognized: Dr. Charles Nash, vice chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs for the UA System; Dr. James Jackson, professor emeritus of Education in Medicine in the Department of Medical Education at the School of Medicine; and the Alabama Farmer’s Federation Women’s Leadership Division.

The convocation was held at the Hotel Capstone on the UA campus.

Graduating Rural Medical Scholars:

  • Veronica Coleman of Butler
  • Rebecca England of Demopolis
  • Andrew Seth Griffin of Centre
  • Jessica Luker of Camden
  • Dustin Marshall of Coaling
  • Colby James of Empire
  • Brionna McMeans of Fort Deposit
  • Johnny Pate, Jr. of Moundville
  • Madison Peoples of Hamilton
  • Madilyn Tomaso of Barnwell

Scholarships awarded to medical students, Rural Medical Scholars

Scholarships were recently awarded to four medical students receiving their clinical education at The University of Alabama College of Community Health Sciences. Rural Medical Scholars also received awards.

UA News: UA’s Rural Medical Scholars Program Adds 10 New Students

Ten students from rural Alabama have been accepted into The University of Alabama’s Rural Medical Scholars Program this year.

The Rural Medical Scholars Program, which is part of UA’s College of Community Health Sciences and has been cited nationally as a model program for educating rural physicians, is a five-year medical education program for rural Alabama students leading to the M.D. degree.

The program provides specialized training and field experiences, as well as a peer network between the students and rural doctors who serve as preceptors and mentors, and former students who graduated from the program and have entered practice.

Rural Medical Scholars and Rural Community Health Scholars attend orientation

This year’s classes of Rural Medical Scholars and Rural Community Health Scholars were welcomed to the College of Community Health Sciences with a day of orientation on Aug. 16 at Camp Tuscoba in Northport.

The College works to address the shortage of primary care physicians in Alabama through the Rural Medical Scholars Program, which is for rural Alabama students who want to become physicians and practice in rural communities. The program includes a year of study, after students receive their undergraduate degree, that leads to a master’s degree in rural community health and early admission to the University of Alabama School of Medicine. Rural Medical Scholars spend the first two years of medical school at the School of Medicine’s main campus in Birmingham and then return to the College for their final two years of clinical education.

Rural Community Health Scholars are graduate students not enrolled in the Rural Medical Scholars Program who are interested in health care careers. The program prepares students to assume leadership roles in community health in rural areas. Graduates of the program have entered the fields of public health, health administration, nursing and physical therapy. They have continued their professional training to become nurse practitioners, physician assistants, public health practitioners, physicians, teachers and researchers.

The orientation included program expectations, introductions and allowed students to get to know each other and CCHS faculty, including Dr. Richard Streiffer, dean of the College, who opened the orientation with a welcome.

Rural Medical Scholars:
Rebecca England—Demopolis (Marengo County)
Veronica Coleman—Butler (Choctaw County)
Andrew Seth Griffin—Centre (Cherokee County)
Colby James—Empire (Walker County)
Jessica Luker—Camden (Wilcox County)
Dustin Cole Marshall—Cottondale (Tuscaloosa County)
Brionna McMeans—Fort Deposit (Lowndes County
Johnny Pate—Moundville (Tuscaloosa County)
Madison Peoples—Hamilton (Marion County)
Madilyn Tomaso—Barnwell (Baldwin County)

Rural Community Health Scholars:
Sierra Cannon—Haddock, Georgia
Chelsey Clark—Birmingham (Jefferson County)
Raven Eldridge—Montgomery (Montgomery County)
Paris Long—Coosada (Elmore County)
Kendra Mims—McCalla (Jefferson County)
Januar Page—Enterprise (Dale County)
Kristin Pressley—Montgomery (Montgomery County)
Jeremy Watson—Northport (Tuscaloosa County)

Including the incoming class, there are 210 Rural Medical Scholars from 56 counties across Alabama. The 20th class entered medical school at the University of Alabama School of Medicine in August.

UA News: UA Brings 2016 Rural Health Scholars to Campus

Two select groups of students from across Alabama recently were on The University of Alabama campus for the 2016 Rural Health Scholars and Rural Minority Health Scholars programs in UA’s College of Community Health Sciences.

College merges departments to create Department of Family, Internal and Rural Medicine

The College of Community Health Sciences’ departments of Family Medicine and Internal Medicine have joined, and along with the College’s Rural Health Leaders Pipeline programs, now form the Department of Family, Internal, and Rural Medicine, or FIRM. The University of Alabama Board of Trustees approved the merger at its June 2016 meeting.

Dr. Richard Streiffer, dean of the College, said the departments of Family Medicine and Internal Medicine were already collaborating in many ways, including a joint inpatient teaching service created in 2015 and through the College’s geriatrics program. Rather than continuing as two separate departments, consolidation will benefit patients, medical students and residents, says Streiffer.

“Medical practice and training are becoming much more interdisciplinary, interprofessional and collaborative than ever before,” Streiffer says. “Our structure dates back to the origins of the College, for the most part, and has perpetuated ‘silos’ that no longer make sense.”

Plus, the primary aim of the Rural Health Leaders Pipeline is to prepare students from rural areas of Alabama to provide health care in rural areas—particularly as family medicine physicians.

“Hence, the creation of FIRM into a single administrative unit gives us the unique opportunity to realign these key programs and disciplines, resources and strategies to be more collaborative and, ultimately, more effective,” Streiffer says.

Dr. Richard Friend, director of the College’s Family Medicine Residency and chair of FIRM, says the merger will also allow the College to reexamine its use of clinical space in University Medical Center for efficiency.

Being part of a single unit, FIRM will be able to more easily implement clinical guidelines and processes as part of the College’s ongoing effort to become certified as a Patient-Centered Medical Home, as well as continue to increase collaboration in research and education.

Dr. Scott Arnold will serve as vice chair of FIRM and division director for internal medicine. Dr. Catherine Scarbrough, associate residency director, will provide oversight of curricular aspects of residency and fellowship education within the department. Dr. Jane Weida, associate residency director, will serve as director of all FIRM clinics. Dr. John Wheat continues as director of the Rural Health Leaders Pipeline.

Twentieth class of Rural Medical Scholars graduates

The Rural Medical Scholars Program at The University of Alabama College of Community Health Sciences celebrated a milestone at its convocation in May – the 20th anniversary of the program, which is designed for rural Alabama students who want to become physicians and practice in rural communities.

“We are celebrating our 20 years, and recognizing students who are finishing the program this year and heading to medical school,” Dr. Jim Leeper, a professor of Community and Rural Medicine who works closely with the program, said as he welcomed graduates, their families and guests May 1 at the Hotel Capstone on the UA campus.

Eight Rural Medical Scholars graduated this year. Alumni of the two-decades-old program were also honored with a reception that preceded the convocation.

The Rural Medical Scholars program is exclusively for rural Alabama students and includes a year of study, after students receive their undergraduate degree, that leads to a master’s degree in Rural Community Health and early admission to the University of Alabama School of Medicine. Rural Medical Scholars spend the first two years of medical school at the School of Medicine’s main campus in Birmingham and then return to the College for their final two years of clinical education.

Dr. Kevin Leon, associate dean for Undergraduate Medical Education at the School of Medicine, provided the convocation address. He spoke to students about the importance of primary care, the area of medicine that many Rural Medical Scholars choose to practice, and the privilege of serving patients, sharing some of his own experiences.

“What sets a primary care physician apart from other physicians are the relationships that are built,” Leon said. “Being present at the beginning of a new life, caring for a person throughout their life, rejoicing with patients, crying with patients and being there at the end of their lives to help them with that transition. What a privilege that is.”

He said primary care physicians also need to be active proponents for health. “Our responsibility to our patients, their families and our society is to go further – as advocates for health care in our communities and the nation.”

Dr. Drake Lavender, an assistant professor in the College’s Department of Family Medicine and the first graduate of the Rural Medical Scholars Program, also spoke at the convocation. He noted that many Rural Medical Scholar graduates hold leadership positions in state and national medical and teaching organizations. Lavender currently serves as president of the Alabama Academy of Family Physicians. “I didn’t anticipate that leadership would be part of my responsibilities, but you need to. We need people to come behind us with leadership abilities.”

Also during the convocation, the Rural Medical Scholars Program Distinguished Service Award was presented to Dr. Jim Coleman, director of the Office of Family Health, Education, and Research at the UAB Huntsville regional campus of the School of Medicine. Coleman was founding director of the Rural Medicine Program, a sister program to the Rural Medical Scholars Program that was established at Auburn University and the Huntsville regional campus.

“There is no greater honor than to be recognized by students and your peers and by the program that started it all,” Coleman said in reference to the Rural Medical Scholars Program.

The Rural Medical Scholars Alumni Award for Outstanding Rural Medical Educator, presented for the first time, was awarded to Dr. John Brandon, a long-time family physician in Gordo, Ala., who has served as a preceptor to medical students and family medicine residents.

Graduating members of the 20th class of Rural Medical Scholars:

Anooshah Ata of Scottsboro
Helen Cunningham of Fairhope
Tanner Hallman of Arab
Gloria McWhorter of Pike Road
Carson Perrella of Salem
John Pounders of Leighton
Jayla Robinson of Addison
Harriet Washington of Carrollton

UA’s Rural Medical Scholars Program Celebrates 20th Class

The Rural Medical Scholars Program at the College of Community Health Sciences will honor the graduates of its 20th class, as well as alumni of the now two-decade-old program, on Sunday, May 1, at Hotel Capstone on The University of Alabama campus.

 

Rural Medical Scholars Program to Honor Grads as Part of 20th Anniversary

The Rural Medical Scholars Program at the College of Community Health Sciences will honor the graduates of its 20th class, as well as alumni of the now two-decade-old program, on May 1 at Hotel Capstone on The University of Alabama campus.

A reception for program alumni will be held at 3 pm and will be followed by the 20th Annual Rural Scholars Convocation, where both the current class and past classes of the Rural Medical Scholars and Rural Community Health Scholars will be recognized.

Approximately 200 rural Alabama students have entered the College’s Rural Medical Scholars Program since its founding in 1996, and many graduates have chosen primary care fields. The majority of the program’s graduates practice in Alabama, and more than half of those practice in rural communities.

The Rural Medical Scholars Program is the culmination of the Rural Health Leaders Pipeline, a series of nationally-recognized programs that recruit rural students to prepare for health and medical careers in rural Alabama and provide them with opportunities for rural training experiences so that ultimately, they will return to their home towns or other rural parts of the state to practice.

“‘Growing our own’ is a tenet of the Rural Medical Scholars Program and other Rural Scholars Programs at The University of Alabama and is based on research that shows that rural students are more likely to choose to live and practice in rural areas,” says Dr. John Wheat, founder and director of the Rural Medical Scholars Program.

The Pipeline was recognized as the 2013 Outstanding Rural Health Program by the National Rural Health Association.