Although rural-based graduate medical education is critically important in the training of competent rural family physicians, the number of physicians selecting these programs is highly dependent on what happens earlier in the pipeline, i.e., during medical school. Using the experience and outcomes research from Jefferson Medical College's Physician Short-age Area Program, as well as from published literature describing six other medical school programs with similar goals, this paper addresses the important role of these programs in substantially increasing the number of physicians interested in rural family practice. Although each of these programs differs in its structure, all contain three core features: a strong institutional mission; the targeted selection of students likely to practice in rural areas, predominantly those with rural backgrounds; and a focus on primary care, especially family practice. Outcomes show that all seven programs have been highly successful. Medical schools, therefore, can have a major impact on the number of rural physicians they produce by acting not only as a pipeline or conduit to residency programs, but also as a control valve, beginning as early as the admissions process. In order to maximize their impact on the supply and training of rural family physicians, rural residency programs should understand, support, collaborate with and help develop medical school programs whose mission is to provide rural physicians.