A comprehensive medical education program response to rural primary care needs

Acad Med. 2008 Oct;83(10):952-61. doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e3181850a02.


This article presents the characteristics and results of the Rural Medical Education (RMED) Program which addresses medical workforce needs focused on reducing rural health disparities. The program is comprehensive in implementing a system of recruitment of candidates from rural backgrounds, offering a rural-focused curriculum, and instituting evaluative components to track outcomes. Distinctive program features include a Recruitment and Retention Committee of rural community members; special rural-focused topics and events during the first three years of undergraduate medical education; and a required fourth-year, 16-week rural preceptorship through which students work with primary care physicians and conduct community-oriented primary care projects. Since 1993, 216 students have matriculated. More than three quarters of candidates interviewed received offers into the program (overall acceptance rate of 75%). Comparisons between RMED and all other students on composite MCAT scores and United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) Part 1 scores show a slightly lower MCAT average for RMED students, but USMLE scores are equal to those of non-RMED students. To date, 159 students have graduated, with 76% entering primary care residencies; 103 are currently in practice, with 64.4% in primary care practice in small towns and/or rural communities. RMED Program outcomes compare favorably with those of other rural medical education programs. RMED can serve as a model at many levels, including recruitment, collaboration, curriculum, and retention. Future challenges for program development and disparity reduction include recruiting students from the growing number of rural minority populations, expanding the number of program slots, and integrating the program with other health professions to address the needs of rural populations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Curriculum
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate*
  • Female
  • Health Services Needs and Demand*
  • Healthcare Disparities / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency / organization & administration
  • Male
  • Needs Assessment
  • Physicians, Family / education*
  • Physicians, Family / statistics & numerical data
  • Primary Health Care* / methods
  • Primary Health Care* / organization & administration
  • Professional Practice Location*
  • Program Development
  • Program Evaluation
  • Quality of Health Care
  • Rural Health
  • Rural Health Services / supply & distribution*
  • Students, Medical
  • United States