TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — 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.
A reception for program alumni will be at 3 p.m. and will be followed by the 20th Annual Rural Scholars Convocation, where the current classes of the Rural Medical Scholars and Rural Community Health Scholars will be recognized.
Members of the Rural Medical Scholars 20th class are: Anooshah Ata, from Scottsboro; Helen Cunningham, from Barnwell; Tanner Hallman, of Arab; Storm McWhorter, Prattville; Carson Perrella, Salem; Johnson “John” Pounders, Leighton; Jayla Robinson, Addison; and Harriet Washington, from Carrollton.
Approximately 200 rural Alabama students have entered the College’s Rural Medical Scholars Program since its founding in 1996. 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 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, which includes a year of study after students receive their undergraduate degree, 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 Rural Medical Scholars Program is also 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. The pipeline was recognized as the 2013 Outstanding Rural Health Program by the National Rural Health Association.
“‘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,” said Dr. John Wheat, founder and director of the Rural Medical Scholars Program.
The Rural Community Health Scholars Program is for 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. The 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.
Rural Community Health Scholars this year are: Januar Page Brown of Enterprise; Amellia Cannon of Duncanville; Dylan Drinkard of Thomasville; Caleb Mason of Guntersville; Johnny Pate of Moundville; Kristin Pressley of Harvest; and Jeremy Watson of Tuscaloosa County.
The University of Alabama, the state’s oldest and largest public institution of higher education, is a student-centered research university that draws the best and brightest to an academic community committed to providing a premier undergraduate and graduate education. UA is dedicated to achieving excellence in scholarship, collaboration and intellectual engagement; providing public outreach and service to the state of Alabama and the nation; and nurturing a campus environment that fosters collegiality, respect and inclusivity.