The chronic shortage of rural physicians prompts further consideration of the educational interventions that have been developed to address this issue. Despite rural admission strategies and a variety of undergraduate, graduate and postgraduate curricular innovations, the recruitment and retention of family physicians into many rural areas has not kept pace with the retirement of older general practice physicians. This paper reviews the 1994 American Academy of Family Physicians' rural training recommendations in the light of several recent educational needs assessments. These studies affirm the need for rural residency rotations and the need to maintain and better implement the established rural clinical training guidelines. However, although preparation for rural medical practice has been addressed and is being adequately accomplished in the clinical knowledge and procedural skills areas, instruction and experiences relating to the "realities of rural living" need to be enhanced to increase the retention duration of rural physicians. This can be accomplished with more curricular emphasis on developing community health competencies, including community-oriented primary care (COPC). Physicians who know how to collaborate with community members on health improvement projects have skills that can also facilitate integration and, hence, retention.