Impact of the Rural Physician Associate Program on Workforce Outcomes

Fam Med. 2021 Nov;53(10):864-870. doi: 10.22454/FamMed.2021.563022.


Background and objectives: The Rural Physician Associate Program (RPAP) at the University of Minnesota Medical School (UMMS) is a 9-month rural longitudinal integrated clerkship (LIC) for third-year medical students built on a foundation of family medicine. The purpose of this study was to examine the relationships between participation in the RPAP program and the desired workforce outcomes of practice in Minnesota, primary care specialty (particularly family medicine), and rural practice.

Methods: We analyzed workforce outcomes for UMMS graduates who completed postgraduate training between 1975 and 2017, comparing RPAP participants (n=1,217) to noparticipants (n=7,928). We identified graduates through internal UMMS databases linked to the American Medical Association (AMA) Physician Masterfile and the National Provider Identifier (NPI) registry. We identified workforce outcomes of rural practice, practice in Minnesota, primary care specialty, and family medicine specialty based on practice specialty and practice location data available through the AMA and NPI data sets.

Results: Proportionally, more RPAP graduates practice in state (65.7% vs 54.4%, P<.01), in primary care (69.0% vs 33.4%, P<.01), in family medicine (61.1% vs 17.3%, P<.01), and rurally (41.2% vs 13.9%, P<.01) than non-RPAP graduates.

Conclusions: We demonstrate a significant association between participation in RPAP and a career in family medicine, rural practice, and primary care, all outcomes that promote meeting urgent rural workforce needs.

MeSH terms

  • Career Choice
  • Family Practice
  • Humans
  • Physicians, Family
  • Professional Practice Location
  • Rural Health Services*
  • Students, Medical*
  • Workforce