Rural health leaders pipeline, 1990-2005: Case study of a second-generation rural medical education program

John Wheat, John Brandon, James Leeper, James Jackson, Dennis Boulware

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


A pipeline model has been suggested to increase the rural physician supply. This study is an institutional case report used to describe the context, development, and in-house evaluation of the University of Alabama Rural Health Leaders Pipeline, 1990-2005. This program was developed at a University of Alabama School of Medicine branch campus to target rural students at multiple levels, elementary schools through residency, and includes a minority focus. Requirements to enter the medical program include living 8 years in rural Alabama, meeting admission requirements, and affinity for rural lifestyles. Twenty-six percent of 316 high school participants, all 40 students in the minority-focused college program, and 3% of 90 medical program students were African American. The program includes (1) puppet shows in elementary schools depicting different health professions, (2) Rural Health Scholars Program for 11th-grade students, (3) Minority Rural Health Pipeline Program for college students, (4) Rural Medical Scholars Program, a 5-year track of study in rural community health and medicine, and (5) assured admission to family medicine residency. Outcomes studied in this case report included medical school performance, graduation rate, selection of family medicine specialty, and rural practice location. Medical scholars were anticipated to experience academic difficulty, select family medicine specialty, and locate in rural practice more often than peers. Compared to peers, medical scholars showed lower scores on preclinical courses and USMLE steps 1 and 2, reflective of their lower MCAT and GPA scores, but had (1) similar graduation rates (95% vs peers 84%), (2) higher family medicine selection rate (47% vs Huntsville 27% vs Tuscaloosa 12% vs Birmingham 4% [OR compared to Birmingham 22.7, 95% CI 10.5-49.4]), and (3) higher rural practice rate (67% vs peers 14% vs national group 9%) in the first RMSP classes. Based on these important outcomes being better than or equal to the traditional student cohorts, the institution concluded that the Rural Health Leaders Pipeline demonstrates successful use of the rural pipeline model.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)51-61
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Agromedicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2007


  • Medical education
  • Pipeline program
  • Rural medicine


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