Schools seeking students for rural medical practice

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 3, 2003

The University of Alabama is stepping up its efforts to recruit the next generation of rural physicians, because the need is overwhelming, especially here in the Black Belt of Alabama.

Dr. Amit K. Sharma, working with Rural Health Projects based in Tuscaloosa, was in Selma Thursday promoting a new approach through the medical school’s Rural Medical Pipeline Programs. The project encourages promising students in rural areas to become acquainted with

doctors in their community for the purpose of whetting the students’

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interest in preparing for the practice of rural medicine.

It’s really a very simple idea. Communities, through public and private schools, community colleges and leadership networks, identify and challenge young people to become personally acquainted with a local doctor who practices medicine in a rural area in order to find out what it’s like to be in that role.

This program is part of Rural Medical Pipeline Programs, whose goal is finding and nurturing capable rural students who are interested in becoming physicians and practicing in their hometowns or similar rural areas.

These students are much more likely than non-rural students to establish medical practices in areas of great need of doctors than are medical students from urban and suburban areas.

Sharma, who completed his medical studies in India in 2000 and will soon be entering a residency program, said he believes that this type of community effort will complement a number of other programs.

Among the programs designed to meet this need are one with 10 all-tuition-paid-slots a year in the Alabama School of Medicine on three campuses &045; Tuscaloosa, Birmingham and Huntsville &045; for students committed to a rural medicine specialty.

In return, four years of medical practice in a rural area is required or recipients must repay their scholarship 200 percent.

Other programs offer high school students the opportunity to visit medical school campuses and college students to take courses on medical school campuses for full college credit.

For more information, contact Dr. Amit K. Sharma, Rural Health Projects, College of Community Health Sciences, University of Alabama School of Medicine, 379 Nott Hall, Tuscaloosa, AL 35487-0326, Box 870326, or by phone: (205) 348-1948.