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Rural Scholars Program Grooms Primary Care Docs in AL

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, May 29, 2013

A program at the University of Alabama helps students prepare for the rigors of medical school—and careers as primary care physicians.

Mark Christensen, MD, knew he wanted a career in medicine ever since he served as an emergency medical technician with the volunteer fire department while still in high school at his tiny hometown of Toney in northern Alabama.

"I always thought it would be interesting to go the extra step and become a physician," Christensen says. "I enjoyed going into people's houses and taking care of them there and going all the way up to the hospital doors. But I wanted to see that other side of the doors as well and continue that care from inside the hospital throughout their stay."

Now a third-year resident in family practice at the University of Alabama School of Medicine, Christensen plans to return to rural Alabama when he finishes his residency in 2014. In large part, Christensen credits the University of Alabama's Rural Medical Scholars Program with helping him realize his dream of becoming a doctor. Christensen completed the scholars program during his senior year at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and it helped to prepare him for the rigors of medical school.

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"They were able to help me because with the rural background and that kind of education I was at a disadvantage compared to some of the students going to bigger schools where they're doing calculus in the 8th grade it seems like," Christensen says. "We just didn't have those resources growing up and I didn't even know what I needed to know. This program definitely helps with that. They saw the potential in me and it turns out, I guess they were right."

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