Context: Founded in 1971 with state funding to increase the number of primary care physicians in rural Minnesota, the Rural Physician Associate Program (RPAP) has graduated 1,175 students. Third-year medical students are assigned to primary care physicians in rural communities for 9 months where they experience the realities of rural practice with hands-on participation, mentoring, and one-to-one teaching. Students complete an online curriculum, participate in online discussion with fellow students, and meet face-to-face with RPAP faculty 6 times during the 9-month rotation. Projects designed to bring value to the community, including an evidence-based practice and community health assessment, are completed.
Purpose: To examine RPAP outcomes in recruiting and retaining rural primary care physicians.
Methods: The RPAP database, including moves and current practice settings, was examined using descriptive statistics.
Findings: On average, 82% of RPAP graduates have chosen primary care, and 68% family medicine. Of those currently in practice, 44% have practiced in a rural setting all of the time, 42% in a metropolitan setting and 14% have chosen both, with more than 50% of their time in rural practice. Rural origin has only a small association with choosing rural practice.
Conclusion: RPAP data suggest that the 9-month longitudinal experience in a rural community increases the number of students choosing primary care practice, especially family medicine, in a rural setting.