The Rural Physician Associate Program: successful outcomes in primary care and rural practice

Rural Remote Health. 2005 Apr-Jun;5(2):453. Epub 2005 Jun 15.


The Rural Physician Associate Program (RPAP) has trained 1063 medical students in rural communities for the past 34 years and produced 658 primary care physicians and 521 physicians who currently practice in rural communities. While the students' experience in this nine-month clerkship is primarily clinic-based, they see patients in the emergency room, assist in surgery, deliver babies, attend physician meetings and participate in community health education. They experience real continuity of care by following a patient from the clinic or emergency room to the operating room and throughout their recovery. They diagnose a pregnancy, deliver the baby and then do the well-child examination in the clinic. The students recognize the value of this experience, as expressed in their final essays. They value the mentoring of the physicians, the relationship with the patients and the experiences in health care in which they play integral part. While the trend toward primary care in medical education is decreasing, the outcome of the RPAP program is holding steady at approximately 80%. Selection is certainly a factor, because many of the students who apply for RPAP have already expressed an interest in primary care. Additionally, the mentoring relationship with their preceptor, professionally and personally, and the ability to observe the lives of other practising physicians provides a reality check that may guide decisions. The enthusiasm for teaching, and the significant engagement with and impact on the community of the physicians may be another factor in deciding on primary care. Practising alongside physicians who find intellectual challenge and rewarding relationships in primary care is essential in continuing to produce primary care physicians of future.

MeSH terms

  • Career Choice
  • Clinical Clerkship*
  • Competency-Based Education
  • Family Practice / education*
  • Humans
  • Preceptorship
  • Primary Health Care*
  • Professional Practice Location*
  • Program Development
  • Rural Health Services*
  • Students, Medical
  • United States
  • Workforce