Medical School Program Sparks Rural Residencies

Alexandra Wilson Pecci, for HealthLeaders Media , November 9, 2011

When medical students shadow the doctors at Hermann Area District Hospital in Hermann, Missouri, the experience not only teaches them the ins and out of patient care; they also get a taste of what rural medicine is really like.

"It lets them see that rural medicine's not that much different than urban medicine," Dan McKinney, administrator of Hermann Area District Hospital tells HealthLeaders. "From what they get exposed to at school to what they get exposed to out in a clinic setting are a little bit different."

Hermann Area District Hospital is among the Missouri hospitals that participate in the University of Missouri School of Medicine's Rural Track Pipeline, which prepares college and medical students for practicing medicine in rural areas. Overall, more than 450 medical students have participated in the program, which is funded by the University of Missouri School of Medicine; by local, rural community health care systems; and by a Health Services Resource Administration grant.

The program, which began in 1995, just published its first outcomes paper in the November issue of Academic Medicine. The study finds that 65% percent of students who participated in the program practice in Missouri, and 43% practice in rural areas of the state. In and outside of Missouri, more than 57% of participating students practice in rural areas.

"That's huge because in comparison, 9% of physicians practice in rural areas nationwide, and only 3% of medical school matriculants plan to practice in a rural area," Kathleen Quinn, Ph.D., lead author of the article and director of the program, tells HealthLeaders. "So when you say 57% of our students end up in rural, that's a pretty big deal."

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