Rural-Track Pipeline Program supplies physicians to rural areas

More than 57 percent of students who go through the Pipeline Program decide to practice in rural communities.

With the nearest medical services 15 miles away and the nearest hospital more than 35 miles away, the seriousness of injury and illness in Jamestown, Mo., can be magnified, MU student Jacob Ennis said.

“I think our town (Jamestown) would tremendously benefit from increased physicians or medical facilities,” Ennis said. “As of right now we have zero, and that can be scary at times.”

Though 20 percent of Americans live in rural locations, only 9 percent of physicians work in these rural locations, according to an MU academic article.

The Rural-Track Pipeline Program was founded in 1995 to combat the inadequate health services problem in rural Missouri, program director Kathleen Quinn said. Designed to both increase and retain physicians in rural areas, the program provides medical students with hands-on experience in rural locations.

“The pipeline is about educating students about the good things that come with rural areas,” Quinn said. “All the same opportunities are available in rural areas. The program is about correcting misconceptions.”

The pipeline is made up of four components, which connect to allow students to make well-informed decisions about their specialties and the locations they choose to practice in, Quinn said.

The Bryant Pre-Admission Program grants early admission to the School of Medicine to 15 students who intend to work in rural locations. During their sophomore year, these students enter a mentoring relationship with a rural physician, an academic article about the program stated.

The Summer Community Program allows 25 first-year medical students to work with rural physicians for six to eight weeks. This program is designed to teach students about the spectrum of specialties while simultaneously giving students the experience in clinical skills, the academic article stated.

In the Rural Track Clerkship Program, 30 third-year students live and work in a rural community while completing their clinical rotations. For further integration into the rural society, students are encouraged to participate in health-related community service projects, the academic article stated.

In the Rural Track Elective Program, fourth-year medical students can also experience rural medical practices through electives at one of 10 rural based clerkship sites. This is a final chance to help students solidify their commitment to practicing rural medicine, the academic article stated.

Third-year medical student Andrea Schuster said she labels herself as a product of the Pipeline Program. Pipeline helped her realize what was available to her in rural communities.

Schuster said she participated in the Summer Community Program in Macon, Mo.

“I was able to get a lot of hands-on experience that students working in larger communities didn’t get,” Schuster said.

Schuster said she benefits from an aspect of the program that provides students with forgivable loans if they agree to work in a rural community for a few years.

Resident physician Kristina Anderson said the rural pipeline strengthened her desire to work in a rural area.

“I think the clincher was my third-year clerkship in family medicine,” Anderson said. “I spent eight weeks in Cassville and Monett, Mo. I really liked the way the practices I worked with were set up with a mix of clinical and procedural medicine.”

More than 57 percent of students who participate in the program choose a rural location for their first practice, the academic article stated.

Of the 20 Rural Scholars involved in the study, 19 chose to practice in Missouri, the article stated. This fulfills the final component of the pipeline. Graduates of the program becoming future mentors and community-based faculty to the current pipeline participants has created the self-renewing effect of rural practitioners in Missouri.

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