There continues to be a shortage of physicians and other health care providers in many parts of rural Alabama. Research suggests that people who grow up in rural areas are much more likely than others to return to rural areas to practice medicine. In 1996, The University of Alabama School of Medicine (UASOM), through its Tuscaloosa campus College of Community Health Sciences (CCHS), instituted the Rural Medical Scholars Program (RMSP). This is an alternative pathway for rural Alabama students to prepare for future work as primary care physicians in rural parts of the state.

The RMSP, a five-year program that leads to a medical degree (MD), has a separate admissions process. As part of the RMSP, students develop camaraderie with fellow students and form a support network with rural health professionals. To begin developing this important support system, the Rural Medical Scholars spend the academic year prior to entry into medical school involved in a basic rural health curriculum on the Tuscaloosa campus. Some of these students are college seniors pursuing a bachelor’s degree at The University of Alabama (UA), and some already have this degree. Following successful completion of this pre-matriculation experience, the path of medical education continues with basic science courses at the UASOM Birmingham campus for two years and clinical work at the UASOM Tuscaloosa campus for two years.

The RMSP has developed its own set of courses, sometimes in collaboration with other colleges at UA, which meets the needs of Rural Medical Scholars. This set of courses is designed to meet the needs of both undergraduate and graduate students. Undergraduate students will still meet the requirements for graduation. Students with special needs will still take appropriate courses. The Certificate of Rural Community Health will provide recognition to all of these students for the work they do in a CCHS core set of five courses.

Certificate Program Objectives

  1. Provide students with the basic tools, principles and knowledge to be able to investigate rural health issues and to determine solutions to rural health problems.
  2. Create a support network among students, rural physicians, other rural health and agricultural professionals and rural residents.
  3. Keep students from rural Alabama connected with their rural roots to increase the probability that they will return as rural health practitioners.

Completion Requirements

The Certificate requires successful completion (earn a grade of B or better in each course) of 15 credit hours in five courses (three hours each) from the following:

Rural Environmental and Occupational Health

CHS 400Rural Envir/Occup Health 13
CHS 500Rural Envir/Occup Health 13
HHE 500Rural Environ/Occupatnl Health 13

Introduces basics of rural environmental and occupational health. Students acquire knowledge of biological, chemical, physical, safety and ergonomic health hazards common to the rural South. Safety regulations and preventive measures are explored where applicable.


CHS 420Basic Epidemiology 13
CHS 520Basic Epidemiology 13
HHE 521Basic Epidemiology 13

Acquaints students with basic epidemiological methods and principles. Emphasis is on study design and sources of error. The investigation of disease etiology and risk factors are the focus of this course.

Community Clinical Process I

CHS 422Community Clinical Proc 13
CHS 522Community Clinical Proc 13

Explores the roles and responsibilities of rural primary care physicians as they address the health and health care needs of individuals, families and communities. Communication basics and interviewing skills are explored and practiced. Health care practice issues such as physician/patient relationships, confidentiality and HIPPA Guidelines, as well as ethics in medicine, are presented. In addition, basic clinical assessment skills and techniques, including a comprehensive health history and physical exam, are introduced. Fieldwork includes shadowing primary care physicians, community interviews, health promotion activities and rural industry tours.


CHS 425Biostatistics 13
CHS 525Biostatistics 13
HHE 526Biostatistics 13

Introduces basic statistical concepts and procedures in health-related research, including descriptive statistics, probability, parametric procedures (e.g., t-tests, analysis of variance, correlation, regression) and nonparametric procedures (chi-square tests and ranking procedures). Explores select data sets related to rural community issues through the application of learned procedures and the production of research reports.

Survey of Issues in Health Care Management

CHS 427Health Policy & Planning3

Explores current issues facing the health care industry. Issues are analyzed and evaluated regarding health care sectors involved, level of importance and possible solutions/outcomes, as well as stakeholder demands. Students are expected to discuss and support analysis of health care issues.