I just got back from an informational interview with Dr. John Wheat of the University of Alabama's Rural Medical Scholars Program. The Rural Medical Scholars Program is currently my top medical program choice. If I enter RMSP, I will get a one year "General Studies in Human Environmental Sciences" masters of science with a focus on rural health at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. The next two years, I would go to medical school at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, followed by clinical rotations the next two years in Tuscaloosa. The goal of RMSP is to train aspiring medical students from rural backgrounds who have an interest in practicing medicine in rural areas. Since I've grown up in Marion, am most interested in primary care medicine, and love small town living, I fit the program well.
I really do hope all goes well and I'm accepted. The coursework for the masters program and the RMSP activities are selected to give a good framework for medical school and future rural practice. They range from Biochemistry/Molecular Biology I (taught partly by Dr. Wheat) to courses called Community Clinical Processes I and II. Something about the program must be working well! According to data from 1997 to 2001, the Rural Medical Scholars program students had an approximately 10% higher graduation rate than non Rural Medical Scholars UAB medical students.
In addition to the Rural Medical Scholars Program based in Tuscaloosa, there is a sister MS/MD program at Auburn, RMP (Rural Medical Program), with basically the same system. I need to get more information about the RMP program, but will definitely be applying when I apply to RMSP.
According to Dr. Wheat and Dr. Brandon, the RMSP medical director, one big thing that I can do to boost my application is to get more rural physician shadowing. I'm hoping that I can shadow over school holidays. School courses, assignments, and obligations are catching up!