College Holds Orientation for Future Rural Physicians, Health Professionals

September 9, 2020

Eleven students studying to become physicians and other health-care professionals with plans to practice in rural Alabama communities attended an orientation session August 18 at the College of Community Health Sciences.

The students comprise the current classes of the College’s Rural Medical Scholars Program and Rural Community Health Scholars Program. The orientation included an overview of both programs, a review of courses and schedules, as well as faculty and staff introductions.

The Rural Medical Scholars Program is a five-year medical education program that leads to a medical degree. The program includes a year of study, after students receive their undergraduate degree, and leads to a master’s degree in Rural and Community Health and early admission to the University of Alabama School of Medicine.

Students spend their first two years of medical school at the School of Medicine’s main campus in Birmingham and return to CCHS for their third and fourth years of medical school – the clinical training years.

The Rural Medical Scholars Program is exclusively for rural Alabama students who want to become physicians and practice in rural communities. It has been cited nationally as a model initiative. To date, it has placed 75 physicians into practice in rural Alabama. Ten students were selected for the program’s 2020-21 academic year.

The Rural Community Health Scholars Program is a graduate degree program for students not enrolled in the Rural Medical Scholars Program but interested in health-care careers. The program prepares students for 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.

Both programs are part of the College’s efforts to address the shortage of primary care physicians and other health-care professionals in Alabama, particularly in rural areas.

“Alabama is a disproportionately rural state, and medical education programs that develop rural physicians and other health professionals are vital,” said Dr. Richard Friend, dean of the College. “At CCHS, we have been and will continue to address these workforce needs. We are dedicated to rural health – it is a key part of our mission.”

A number of current CCHS faculty are graduates of the Rural Medical Scholars Program, including Dr. Drake Lavender, assistant professor of family, internal, and rural medicine and director of CCHS Rural Programs.

“You will have excellent experiences here,” he told the students.