Rural Medical Scholars Hold Orientation

September 3, 2019

Seventeen students studying to become rural physicians or considering other health careers attended a rural programs orientation session August 20 hosted by the College of Community Health Sciences. The students are participating in the College’s Rural Medical Scholars Program and Rural Community Health Scholars Program.

The orientation at Lake Lurleen State Park in Coker, Alabama, just outside of Tuscaloosa, included an overview of both programs and expectations, a review of courses and schedules, as well as faculty and staff introductions.

Dr. Drake Lavender, director of Rural Programs for CCHS and an assistant professor of family, internal and rural medicine, told students that Rural Programs faculty and staff would work hard to get them ready for medical school and other health professions schools.

“We want you to be successful,” he said. “We need rural physicians and health care providers.”

Lavender was a member of the first class of Rural Medical Scholars, a program that started in 1996 with the goal of addressing the shortage of primary care physicians in Alabama, particularly in rural areas. He practiced in rural Gordo, Alabama, before joining the College.

The Rural Medical Scholars Program 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, and leads to a master’s degree in Rural Community Health and early admission to the University of Alabama School of Medicine.

The Rural Community Health Scholars Program is for graduate students not enrolled in the Rural Medical Scholars Program but who are interested in health care careers. The program prepares students for leadership roles in community health in rural areas. Graduates of the program, who earn a master’s degree in Rural Community Health, have entered the fields of nursing, physical therapy, public health and health administration.

“The best thing about these programs is that you have a support group around you, and you are part of a bigger family,” Lavender said. “And we have 15 years of graduates practicing. There’s a lot of support out there. We’re excited that you’re here and that you will be a part of this.”