This 30 hour degree program is designed to provide some of the tools necessary for future rural Alabama physicians to become community health leaders.  The program teaches principles of rural public health as a basis for community health leadership, characteristics of rural health concerns and approaches to biomedical science study.  The curriculum is combination of Basic Science Courses, Rural Primary Care discussions, activities, visits and an introduction to basic clinical medicine through didactic sessions, clinical simulations and shadowing with physicians.  It will help prepare them to lead in the development and maintenance of community health center practices and other health care practices. There are two concentrations: Rural Medical Scholars and Rural Community Health Scholars.

Concentration 1:  Rural Medical Scholars (RMS) was established in 1996 by The UAB Heersink School of Medicine (UABSOM) to recruit students who grew up in rural Alabama who desire to practice primary care medicine in rural Alabama. RMS apply to UABSOM, go through a special interview/selection process and enter a RMS 5-year track of study leading to the MD degree.  For the first year, RMS spend a year on the Tuscaloosa campus in the  MS in Rural Community Health program with a set of courses related to rural community health and basic sciences.  Following this year, RMS then complete two years of pre-clinical study at UABSOM in Birmingham. RMS then return to Tuscaloosa for two years of clinical medicine training in the College of Community Health Sciences (CCHS) (UABSOM – Tuscaloosa Campus).  After completing the MD degree, RMS enter residency training in the specialty of their choice.

Concentration 2:  Rural Community Health Scholars (RCHS) are students who exhibit a desire to be rural primary care physicians, but are not yet eligible for the RMS program. The RCHS have the same rural Alabama residency requirements (8 or more years growing up in a rural Alabama community or have graduated from a rural Alabama high school) as RMS. Most of these students use the Master of Science degree as a bridge to the RMS program by demonstrating their ability to handle graduate-level studies and improving admission test scores. If they do not become eligible for the RMS program, they may choose to complete the degree and/or pursue admission to other programs.

Students will complete degree requirements following Plan II (without thesis).  Each student must have a cumulative GPA of 3.2 or better for all graduate courses undertaken at UA, although UABSOM may require a higher science GPA for RMS. At least 75 percent of the graduate hours taken must have been completed with grades of “A” or “B” at UA. All requirements for graduation must be completed within six semesters.

Goal / Purpose

The purpose of the RCH MS - RMSP is to identify, recruit and retain rural students who have the desire to return to the rural setting as physicians.

Ten to Twelve rural Alabama students from a competitive applicant pool are selected each year to enter the Rural Community Health Master’s Degree Program at the University of Alabama.  Upon successful completion of the Master’s Degree, these students will matriculate to the UAB Heersink School of Medicine (UABSOM) and complete the first two years of medical education in Birmingham.  Students then return to Tuscaloosa to complete the third and fourth years of medical education at the University of Alabama, College of Community Health Sciences.  The RCH MS - RMSP provides:

  • Creation of a peer support network among rural students

  • Interaction with an advisor/mentor who is a practicing physician

  • Study of rural health issues

  • Community fieldwork/experiences

  • Introduction to health care policy and current trends in medicine

Benefits of Being a Rural Scholar:

  • Peer relationship development through shared experiences

  • Interaction with rural health care professionals through shadowing and community projects

  • Interaction with Medical Students, Residents and Medical School Faculty and Preceptors

  • Review and evaluation of student progress and guidance as indicated