Medical Education to Improve Rural Population Health: A Chain of Evidence From Alabama

John R. Wheat, Veronica L. Coleman, Shannon Murphy, Caleb M. Turberville, James D. Leeper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Purpose: To provide evidence that medical education is associated with population health in order to support adaptation of medical school programs to address populations with health disparities. We explored medical education efforts, local physician supply, and life expectancy in Alabama. Methods: County-level public data of the number of students accepted to medical schools in 2008 and 2011, primary care physicians, life expectancy, and demographic/contextual variables were analyzed to develop a model for hypothesized associations. Correlational analysis, ANCOVA modeling, and path analysis were employed to identify, reduce, and organize significant variables in this cross-sectional ecologic study. Findings: The path model, which met criteria for goodness of fit, found significant relationships among medical students per 10,000 population, primary care physicians per 10,000 population, life expectancy, and contextual variables for rurality and poverty. ANCOVA models showed that geographic region was significant. Conclusions: Within limitations of the study design, these findings support the proposition that the number of medical students produced in a county is related to the number of primary care physicians, which is related to life expectancy. Recommendations are to confirm the findings in other populations and inform public health policy concerning the utility of medical education to address population health by producing local medical students.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)354-364
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Rural Health
Issue number4
StatePublished - Sep 1 2015


  • Evidence-based research
  • Medical education
  • Physician supply
  • Policy
  • Population health


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