Rural Scholars Program Grooms Primary Care Docs in AL

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media , May 29, 2013

Although he is committed to practicing in rural Alabama, Christensen says he understands the challenges that come with living in the country.

"It's hard because as we go through medical school we accumulate so much debt. The bill I just got the other day was $187,000. I can defer that because I am in residency for another year, but after that I have to start paying $187,000," he says.

"I don't know what $187,000 is! The most we had in the bank account growing up was $26,000 a year combined. In a rural area, you feel like you want to make up what you are in debt for and then some and so rural areas might not make as much money or you might go into a specialty and they are usually in bigger cities."

"Also as you go through medicine, you decide education is important and you look back at think, 'I was in a rural area and I didn't get a good education and I want my kids to have a better education so I am going to go to a large city where they will get a better education, better cultural opportunities and all that.' So it is hard balancing all of that."

Even with those challenges, Christensen says he's excited about his career path. "The more rural you are, the more skills are in need for all aspects of family medicine, which includes taking care of a kid on the pediatrics floor and then walking over to the ICU to take care of an adult in critical condition and bring them back to life and then you go to your office and treat a family," he says.

"I love that you can practice to your maximum ability. And as long as you are good and passionate about those areas, you will do fine. I put myself against any of those specialists any day."

John Commins is a senior editor with HealthLeaders Media.

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