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Dr. John Wheat headed to health care hall of fame

The Alabama Healthcare Hall of Fame will induct University of Alabama Professor John Wheat, M.D. this weekend in Montgomery.

Wheat is a member of the medical faculty in the departments of Community & Rural Medicine and Internal Medicine at the College of Community Health Sciences and the University of Alabama School of Medicine. He grew up in Sumter and Autauga counties.

Wheat was nominated by Dr. Hiram Johnson of Tuscaloosa.

The honoree is widely known across the state and national for his work to help rural students who want to become rural doctors and primary care physicians.

“No single individual in the modern era has done more to address the shortage of primary care physicians in Alabama than Dr. Wheat,” said Holley Midgley of the Alabama Alabama Family Practice Rural Health Board in a prepared statement on Friday.

Wheat has focused his administrative and research efforts on programming to recruit, train and place primary care physicians in the under-served rural communities in Alabama.

The documented success of these programs brought national recognition to Alabama’s efforts to provide rural doctors. Wheat was named the 2007 Distinguished Educator of the Year by the National Rural Health Association.

“Dr. Wheat is a well-known and respected leader in our state in rural medical education — particularly regarding the need to recruit rural students into medical and health careers and to support them through their professional training,” said Gov. Bob Riley in a statement released Friday. “This ‘pipeline’ to recruit and nurture rural students is a model that is being replicated in our state and one which other states can look to as we all seek to improve quality of health care in under-served communities.”

Wheat’s previous recognition includes the Ira L. Myers Award, the Alabama Family Practice Rural Health Board and appointments by the Riley and former Gov. Don Siegelman to represent Alabama on national health policy boards.

Wheat also has held leadership positions in the National Rural Health Association’s Rural Medical Educator Interest Group, the North American Agromedicine Consortium and the Stueland Scholar Award from the National Farm Medicine Center in Marshfield, Wis.