The ultimate purpose of the program is to prepare students to be community health leaders in rural Alabama as health care providers. The immediate purposes of the program are to teach 1) principles of rural public health as a basis for community health leadership, 2) characteristics of rural health concerns, and 3) approaches to biomedical science study through biochemistry and other science courses while 4) providing avenues for students to maintain close rural community ties and identities and 5) to form a supportive peer group.  This program targets two groups of students:

  • Rural Medical Scholars (RMS), established in 1996 by The University of Alabama School of Medicine (UASOM) to recruit students who grew up in rural Alabama who desire to practice primary care medicine in rural Alabama. RMS apply to UASOM, 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 General Studies in Human Environmental Sciences program with a set of courses related to rural community health. (Note: This proposal requests that the curriculum be formally recognized as a Master of Science in Rural Community Health.)  Following this year, RMS then complete two years of pre-clinical study at UASOM in Birmingham. RMS then return to Tuscaloosa for two years of clinical medicine training in the College of Community Health Sciences (CCHS) (UASOM – Tuscaloosa Campus).  After completing the MD degree, RMS enter residency training in the specialty of their choice.
  • Rural Community Health Scholars (RCHS), students who exhibit a desire to be rural health care providers (not necessarily physicians), but are not eligible for the RMS program either because they did not grow up in rural Alabama or they have academic (GPA or MCAT) deficiencies or both.  Most of these students use the Master of Science degree as a bridge to a health professional school (medical, osteopathic, physician assistant, nursing, physical therapy, public health, doctor of philosophy, etc.) by demonstrating their ability to handle graduate-level studies and improving admission test scores. Some RCHS enter the job market after completing the Master of Science degree as public health workers or as high school science teachers. 

This program directly contributes to The University of Alabama’s mission “To advance the … social condition of the people of the State …”  by helping prepare health professionals for the underserved rural areas of Alabama.

The academic requirement for admission as RMS is an MCAT score of 495 or higher or an ACT score of 24 or higher and an undergraduate GPA of 3.2 or higher.  For RCHS the undergraduate GPA must be 3.0 or higher; otherwise a qualifying GRE score is required.  The non-thesis research takes the place of a comprehensive exam.  Graduate GPA requirements are set by the UA Graduate School.  

The program includes two concentrations: the Rural Medical Scholars and the Rural Community Health Scholars. The concentrations provide some of the tools necessary for future rural Alabama physicians (Rural Medical Scholars) and other rural health care providers (Rural Community Health Scholars). The courses in the concentrations prepare students to lead in the development and maintenance of community health center practices and other health care practices.

Required for ALL Rural Community Health Students More Information

BSC 550Fundamentals of Biochemistry3
CHS 527Health Policy & Planning3
HHE 500Rural Environ/Occupatnl Health3
HHE 526Biostatistics3
HHE 598Non-Thesis Research3
Total Hours15

Non-thesis Research Description: HHE 598 Non-Thesis Research is to be a culminating exercise, expressing knowledge and methods learned during the Rural Medical Scholars/Rural Community Health Scholars/Master’s degree program of study.  It will provide evidence to program faculty that principles and topics learned throughout the curriculum are expressed in reports of the experience.  The experience will be in the form of a research study.

Students might, for example:

  • State a rural health issue that their study addresses. This statement should include an explanation of how this topic caught their interest and of their own background relative to this interest.
  • Explain what they did to study the issue - Contextual literature review (and interviews) to place the issue in context of broader rural health concerns, to explain essential facts known about the issue, and to express what needs to be known in order to address the issue in rural Alabama; Collection of data (qualitative and/or quantitative) in a rural community to study the issue as it concerns that community, to learn how it operates in that community, and to learn about the resources that are present to influence the issue; Focused literature review (and interviews) to learn how such an issue has been addressed in other locales and how this might inform a local effort.
  • Describe how the information collected was sorted through, analyzed, or considered and summarize the key findings.
  • Provide a conclusion about the issue in the community and recommendation about how to address it.
  • Discuss the ramifications of addressing the problem in the community, if it could be further applied across rural Alabama, and, if so, what would it mean for Alabama’s rural health.

During the review of the student experiences, by verbal and/or written report, we would expect to find evidence that students have a concept of overall rural health needs, understand the limits of their study methods and their findings, and appreciate the local realities related to addressing a rural health concern.

Rural Medical Scholars ConcentrationMore Information

CHS 522Community Clinical Proc3
HHE 542Pract Issues Behavrl Medicine3
HHE 521Basic Epidemiology3
CHS 590Clinical Correlations Biochem3
CHS 532Comm Clinical Process II3
Total Hours15

Rural Community Health Scholars ConcentrationMore Information

CHS 540Rural Community Interaction I3
NHM 561 or Adv. Vitamins and Minerals3
NHM 562 Metabolism of Energy Nutrients
HHE 521Basic Epidemiology3
CHS 530Stress Management3
CHS 541Rural Community Interaction II3
Total Hours15