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Rural areas face crisis in health care

Health care in rural Alabama is fast approaching a crisis situation.

There aren’t enough doctors to meet the growing demand. And things are expected to get worse before they get better.

Wheat is professor of community and rural medicine at the University of Alabama School of Medicine. His specialty is providing research, education and service to improve health conditions in rural Alabama.

Wheat was in Selma last week to promote the Rural Health Scholars Program, an innovative approach to attracting high school students to pursue a career in the study and practice of medicine.

The program is targeted at high school students who will complete the 11th grade in May. Those students who are accepted into the program receive a full scholarship to attend five weeks of classes at the university this summer, for which they receive seven hours of college credit.

The classes include field trips to rural health care facilities and are intended to encourage students to pursue a career in rural health care.

Only students from rural areas in Alabama are eligible.

Wheat was in Selma at the request of the Rev. Lawrence Wofford, pastor at Greater St. Luke AME Zion Church in Greensboro. Wofford is also president of the magnet school board in Selma.

Wheat said that while the 11th grade might seem early for students to be considering a college major, it’s not.

Wheat pointed out that the Rural Health Scholars Program doesn’t just drop those students who complete the program. For those who may need additional help in making the grade at the college level, the Minority Rural Health Pipeline Program aids incoming college students in managing the responsibilities of a college student and becoming a competitive applicant to medical school.

The program also acts as a feeder program for the Rural Medical Scholars Program, in which the University of Alabama in Birmingham reserves 10 slots for rural students who agree to practice medicine in a rural area.

For information on the Rural Health Scholars Program contact your high school guidance counselor or e-mail Cynthia Moore at cemoore@cchs.ua.edu.