UA’s Rural Medical Scholars Program Adds 11 New Students

Eleven 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.

The 2017 scholars include Austin Brooks, of Cleburne County; Bailey Bryant, of Albertville; Jeb Cowen, of Jasper; Charity Cypert, of Florence; McKenzie Donald, of Chatom; Kathryn Gray and Robert Weaver, both of Alexander City; Brionna McMeans, of Fort Deposit; Peyton Powell, of Monroeville; Kristin Pressley, of Harvest; and Ashlyn Shields, of Hokes Bluff.

Alabama has a historic and ongoing shortage of family doctors and other primary care physicians, which includes internists and pediatricians, in rural areas of the state, with 62 of Alabama’s 67 counties officially designated as completely or partially “Health Professional Shortage Areas.”

The UA program serves Alabama by producing physicians who can become leaders in developing healthy rural communities.

Program selection is based on a competitive application process open only to students from rural Alabama who wish to become rural physicians. It includes a year of study leading to a master’s degree in Rural Community Health and provides early admission to The University of Alabama School of Medicine, which is headquartered in Birmingham.

Ten to 12 students per year are accepted into the program, which provides training with rural preceptors, agromedicine experiences and courses in rural community health during the initial year at UA’s College of Community Health Sciences, a regional campus of The University of Alabama School of Medicine.

They then complete their first two years of medical school at UA’s School of Medicine in Birmingham and return to Tuscaloosa for the final two years of medical school. Graduate students and incoming senior undergraduates from rural Alabama are eligible to apply.

Now in its 21st year, the program has graduates practicing in rural communities across the state. Of those who have finished residency training and entered practice, 90 percent are doctors in the state and approximately 60 percent practice in rural Alabama.

The Rural Medical Scholars Program is the culminating program of UA’s Rural Health Leaders Pipeline, which was selected by the National Rural Health Association as the 2013 Outstanding Rural Health Program in the country.

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.