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Rural Scholars Program Grooms Primary Care Docs in AL

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, May 29, 2013

Christensen says the tutoring and counseling he received from the program proved to be invaluable. "Coming into college was a rude awakening about how much you needed to study. I had no preparation for that coming in. They really helped you," he says.

"It takes a lot of things to get into med school, MCATs and GPA. A lot of people getting into the program have low MCATs. My MCATS were fine. I probably could have gotten in the regular way, but they help make you a better overall applicant. They understand you have a true desire to do this and they advocate for you to get in."

On Thursday, dozens of recent college graduates and college seniors from across rural Alabama will be interviewed and 24 of them will be selected to become Rural Health Scholars for the coming year. They will spend the time prepping for medical school and shadowing rural providers.

Susan Guin, RN, the associate director the Rural Scholars Program and a nurse practitioner, has been with the program for 17 years. She says interviewers try to find that mix of medical school candidates who can combine solid academics with the relationship-building and communication skills needed to thrive in rural environments.

"The common theme is that they come from a rural area so our selection criteria require that you have spent at least eight years of your life in a rural community. We try to select the student who has the desire to go back for the community and has a sense of family and home and wanting to be involved and immersed in the local community," Guin says.

"We are not necessarily looking for a GPA of 4.0 and an MCAT of 30. That is a great student and a smart person but there are also smart people who may have a 3.3 or 3.4 GPA, but they still do well and can sit down and carry on a conversation. They understand local culture and how to communicate with different people. There is value beyond the typical standardized testing idea."

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