COLUMBIA — In an effort to improve both the education of students and people's quality of life in rural Missouri, the MU School of Medicine has expanded its Rural Training Program.
The six-month Rural Training Program places third-year medical students in small communities throughout Missouri to study medicine with local medical professionals. The program has been expanded to include Lebanon, West Plains and Maryville. These new training sites will begin hosting students this month.
Twenty-one students are participating in the program, beginning in August, and will be spread among seven Missouri towns; St. Joseph, Rolla, Poplar Bluff, Springfield and the three towns added this year. The new programs will host nine of those students this year. Next year the program hopes to host 35 students total said Kathleen Quinn, Area Health Education Center director.
“We were getting more students interested in rural experiences; to find out what its like to live and practice in a rural area," Quinn said.
Begun in 1995, the School of Medicine started the Rural Training Program to increase interest among medical students to practice medicine in small towns. The hope of the program is that students who studied in these small towns might return to practice medicine there after they graduate.
“The University of Missouri is really trying to meet a need of more health professionals in places of need and training them in those communities is the best place to do that," Quinn said.
Program leaders hope to increase the number of physicians practicing in rural areas where access to trained medical professionals may be scarce. Eighty percent of Missouri counties do not have enough physicians, a problem expected to increase as more baby boomers enter old age, as reported in a previous Missourian article.
The introduction of the program into these new communities is partially funded through a one-time state grant awarded in 2009. The grant helps cover the startup costs of the sites in Lebanon, West Plains and Maryville.
Students who participate in the program are provided with fully furnished housing. To keep in contact with their professors back in Columbia, students are provided with Internet connections and resources to communicate. This is done at no expense to the students.