Introduction: In a previous prospective study, students from rural backgrounds were found to be significantly more likely to consider rural practice than their urban-raised peers. The purpose of this study was to determine whether the students with rural backgrounds who participated in the original investigation were more likely than their urban-raised peers to be currently engaged in rural family practice.
Method: In Canada, family doctors have the greatest opportunity to practise in rural communities. Consequently, rural and urban background students from the original study who entered the discipline of family medicine as a career were identified for practice location follow-up. Participants were categorised as either rural (population less than 10 000) or urban practitioners according to the population of the community in which they practised. The proportion of rural and urban background students engaged in rural or urban practice was analysed using chi-square and relative risk probability.
Results: A total of 78 students from the original cohort were found to be practising family medicine; 22 of them had been rurally raised. Seven (32%) of the rural background students were practising in a rural community, compared to 7 (13%) of the 56 urban background students (RR = 2.55; P < 0.05).
Conclusions: Rural background students who went on to complete family medicine residency training were approximately 2.5 times more likely to be engaged in rural practice than their urban-raised peers. Altering medical school admission policy to recruit more rural background applicants should be part of a multi-dimensional approach to increasing the number of rural practitioners.