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Health Profession Rural Summer Immersion Program

  • Need: To expose medical and physician assistant students to rural healthcare practices and a rural lifestyle.
  • Intervention: A two-week immersion program for second-year students to experience rural healthcare and rural life in Connecticut and New York.
  • Results: In post-program evaluations from 2016 to 2018, 50% of students reported being very likely to practice in a rural setting, compared to just over 10% of students before the program.


The Health Profession Rural Summer Immersion Program (HPRSIP) was spearheaded by the Foundation for Community Health in rural Sharon, CT, to attract medical (allopathic and osteopathic) and physician assistant students to practice in Litchfield County, CT, and eastern Dutchess County, NY. These second-year students have come from:

  • Marist College School of Science Physician Assistant Program
  • Quinnipiac University Frank H. Netter M.D. School of Medicine
  • Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine
  • UCONN School of Medicine

The following facilities have hosted rotations or provided lectures for students:

HPRSIP counties map
HPRSIP serves Litchfield County, CT, and eastern Dutchess County, NY.
  • Geer Village Senior Community
  • Mountainside Treatment Center
  • North Canaan Volunteer Ambulance Corp.
  • Noble Horizons Retirement Community
  • Sharon Hospital
  • Sun River Health (a Federally Qualified Health Center)
  • UConn Migrant Farmer Worker Clinics
  • Visiting Nurse and Hospice of Litchfield County (home health)

You can learn more about the program's history in the Summer 2019 Issue Brief.

Services offered

Up to 9 students each year are selected for the HPRSIP. During this two-week immersion program, second-year health professional students:

  • Shadow health professionals
  • Review case studies
  • Attend lectures and clinician panel discussions
  • Learn about team-based healthcare
  • Participate in a community service project and an onsite farm workers' clinic
  • Experience the community's lifestyle


Between 2016 and 2018, 74% (20) of HPRSIP participants were from an urban or suburban community and 5% were from a rural community. Of these participants:

  • Before the program, 10% of students rated their knowledge of rural healthcare systems as "good." After the program, 30% rated it as "very good" or "outstanding."
  • Before the program, just over 10% of students reported being very likely to practice in a rural community. After the program, 50% of students reported being very likely.
2018 and 2019 classes of HPRSIP
HPRSIP classes of 2018 (left) and 2019.


Program coordinators said student recruitment within the colleges and universities was the most time-consuming part of the inaugural HPRSIP class, but this process has become easier since past participants can speak to the program's benefits. The program also offers a brochure.


Foundation for Community Health logo

The Foundation for Community Health collaborated with stakeholders from healthcare, local government, businesses, education, and others. Two boarding schools in Lakeville, CT, have donated housing for the students, and local businesses, including the chamber of commerce, provide meals and recreational/cultural events free of cost or at a discount to the students.

In preparation to conduct a summer session, the Foundation for Community Health acts as the point person, spending about two hours each week for a couple of months:

  • Scheduling and conducting meetings
  • Confirming and/or establishing partnerships/participation
  • Helping committee members complete assignments

Depending on their expertise, committee members share additional tasks such as creating program applications and marketing materials and designing evaluation tools. Planning partners include:

  • Catskill Hudson Area Health Education Center
  • Connecticut State Office of Rural Health
  • Foundation for Community Health
  • Geer Village Senior Community
  • Health360
  • Northwestern Connecticut Community College
  • Sharon Hospital
  • Sun River Health

Contact Information

Gertrude O'Sullivan, Director of Communications and Special Programs
Foundation for Community Health
Health Profession Rural Summer Immersion Program

Interprofessional training of the health workforce
Networking and collaboration
Physician assistants
Recruitment and retention of health professionals

States served
Connecticut, New York

Date added
June 15, 2020

Date updated or reviewed
June 16, 2021

Suggested citation: Rural Health Information Hub, 2021. Health Profession Rural Summer Immersion Program [online]. Rural Health Information Hub. Available at: [Accessed 27 October 2021]

Please contact the models and innovations contact directly for the most complete and current information about this program. Summaries of models and innovations are provided by RHIhub for your convenience. The programs described are not endorsed by RHIhub or by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy. Each rural community should consider whether a particular project or approach is a good match for their community’s needs and capacity. While it is sometimes possible to adapt program components to match your resources, keep in mind that changes to the program design may impact results.