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