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Rural Health Information Hub

Rural Medical Education Program at University of Illinois College of Medicine Rockford

Summary 
  • Need: To recruit and train medical students who are committed to choosing rural practice.
  • Intervention: An add-on curriculum that includes seminars, field trips, and clinical rotations in rural and underserved areas.
  • Results: 436 students have graduated from the RMED program between 1997 and 2023, with 65% of program graduates practicing in towns of less than 50,000 people.

Evidence-level

Effective (About evidence-level criteria)

Description

RMED Booth

The Rural Medical Education (RMED) Program at the University of Illinois College of Medicine Rockford (UICOMR) provides rural-specific learning and training opportunities to medical students from rural backgrounds and others who are interested in practicing in a rural area after their residency. Students in the program complete an RMED curriculum that includes seminars, field trips, and clinical rotations in rural and underserved areas, in addition to completing UICOMR's standard curricular requirements for graduation. The goal of the RMED program is to prepare students who enjoy small-town life for the unique benefits and challenges of providing medical care in a rural community. The first class of RMED matriculated in 1993; RMED is celebrating its 30th year in 2023.

Services offered

RMED provides students with supplemental hands-on training in addition to the regular medical school curriculum, with programming that spans all four years of medical school. The program has a robust recruitment strategy that includes having a dedicated recruiter who is from a rural community and who serves a point of contact and mentor for students while they apply to medical school. The recruiter also serves as an advisor to students after they are admitted to the program.

Components of the RMED curriculum include Rural Health Professions seminars; field trips such as “No Harm on the Farm,” in which students visit a working farm to learn about occupational health risks; a community-oriented primary care (COPC) project; and clinical rotations in rural and underserved communities. Students in the program complete a 16-week clinical rotation at a rural hospital in Illinois, with other rotation opportunities in tribal communities in Northern California and Wyoming. This 16-week clinical rotation allows students to experience firsthand what practicing medicine in a rural/underserved community is like. The COPC project provides students an opportunity to work with the community in which they are completing their clinical rotation to define, evaluate, and intervene in a community health priority area.

RMED Farm

Results

A total of 436 students graduated from the RMED program between 1997 and 2023. The program has matriculated students from 97 of Illinois's 102 counties, as well as students from Alaska, Arizona, California, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Texas, and Washington. Since the program's inception, 78% of RMED graduates matched into primary care residencies (family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics/gynecology, and internal medicine-pediatrics). Current practice data for 319 of 436 (73%) RMED graduates was updated in June 2023 and showed that 65% of program graduates are practicing in towns with less than 50,000 people. Data show that 56% of graduates are practicing in IL and of those, 27% practice in rural IL. Almost half (46%) of RMED graduates are currently practicing family medicine.

For more detailed information on the program's results:

  • MacDowell M, Glasser M, Hunsaker M. (2013). A decade of rural physician workforce outcomes for the Rockford Rural Medical Education (RMED) Program, University of Illinois. Academic Medicine, 88(12), 1941-7. Article Abstract
  • Soliman SR, Macdowell M, Schriever AE, Glasser M, Schoen MD. (2012). An interprofessional rural health education program. American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education, 76(10), 199. Article Abstract
  • Glasser M, Hunsaker M, Sweet K, MacDowell M, Meurer M. (2008). A comprehensive medical education program response to rural primary care needs. Academic Medicine, 83(10), 952-61. Article Abstract
  • Hunsaker ML, Glasser ML, Nielsen KM, Lipsky MS. (2006). Medical students' assessments of skill development in rural primary care clinics. Rural Remote Health, 6(4), 616. Article Abstract
  • Salafsky B, Glasser M, Ha J. (2005). Addressing issues of maldistribution of health care workers. Annals of the Academy of Medicine of Singapore, 34(8), 520-6. Article Abstract
  • Glasser M, Holt N, Hall K, Mueller B, Norem J, Pickering J, Brown K, Peters K. (2003). Meeting the needs of rural populations through interdisciplinary partnerships. Family and Community Health, 26(3), 230-45. Article Abstract
  • Glasser M, Stearns MA, Stearns JA, Londo RA. (2000). Screening applicants for a rural medical education program. Academic Medicine, 75(7), 773. Article Abstract
  • Stearns JA, Stearns MA, Glasser M, Londo RA. (2000). Illinois RMED: a comprehensive program to improve the supply of rural family physicians. Family Medicine, 32(1), 17-21. Article Abstract
  • Stearns JA, Londo RA, Glasser M. (1999). Using laptop computers for teaching and evaluation in an extended community preceptorship. Academic Medicine, 74(5), 575-6. Article Abstract
  • Londo RA, Glasser ML, Stearns JA. (1999). Perspectives on longer community-based preceptorships. Family Medicine, 31(1), 13-4.
  • Stearns JA, Glasser M, Fulkerson P. (1997). Medical student education: an admission and curricular approach to rural physician shortages. Academic Medicine, 72(5), 438-9.

Read more about RMED student, graduate and faculty experiences:

RMED Welcome

Challenges

As the program expands, the need for preceptors and housing to support immersive rural/underserved clerkships and 16-week preceptorship opportunities across the country has also increased. There is also a need to develop and expand faculty development opportunities for rural community-based clinical faculty.

Replication

Meaningful and strategic partnerships that include educational programs, translational research, and policy initiatives to support health and wellness in rural communities have been integral to the success of the RMED program and other programs within UICOMR's National Center for Rural Health Professions. Strategic partners include other rural-focused health professions programs and rural hospitals and clinics, including the Illinois Area Health Education Centers Network Program, Illinois Critical Access Hospital Network, and Illinois Health and Hospital Association. Partnerships with the university's Rural Pharmacy Education (RPHARM) Program and Rural Nursing Concentration program allow RMED students to engage in community-based interprofessional training with students from other disciplines. Affiliations agreements with hospitals and clinics include housing support and preceptor commitment that allows for community-based training in 62 sites across Illinois, California, Kansas, Missouri, and Wyoming; California and Wyoming provide immersive opportunities on reservations for students interested in serving tribal communities.

RMED Students

RMED leaders suggest other programs consider the following practices if they wish to increase the number of their graduates who choose rural practice:

  • Developing a rural admissions pathway as part of the medical school admissions process
  • Having a dedicated recruiter
  • Providing hands-on, rural-focused, inter-professional learning opportunities for all four years
  • Building in longitudinal clinical and community-based participatory research practices

Contact Information

Hana Hinkle, PhD, MPH, Director
National Center for Rural Health Professions, University of Illinois College of Medicine Rockford
Rural Medical Education Program
hhinkle1@uic.edu

Topics
Health workforce education and training
Health workforce pipeline
Physicians

States served
National/Multi-State, Illinois

Date added
October 10, 2023

Suggested citation: Rural Health Information Hub, 2023. Rural Medical Education Program at University of Illinois College of Medicine Rockford [online]. Rural Health Information Hub. Available at: https://www.ruralhealthinfo.org/project-examples/1122 [Accessed 22 February 2024]


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.