Wright Rural Medical Scholars expansion bolsters health care workforce in rural areas

After many years of successful work in rural west central Ohio at Wright State University–Lake Campus, the Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine’s rural health initiative is expanding to become the Wright Rural Medical Scholars program.

The expansion is a continuation of the effort to increase the number of physicians in rural Ohio by placing students from the Boonshoft School of Medicine into clinical rotations at health systems in rural West Central Ohio. While living and learning in these rural communities, students have gained knowledge of rural health, rural lifestyles and helped provide care to the area’s residents.

“We are established and committed to having a permanent rural program, so having the word ‘initiative’ in our name no longer felt accurate. The implementation grant from HealthPath of Ohio allowed us to identify and develop our rural clinical partners, as well as gauge student interest in a rural program,” said Lori Martensen, director of the Wright Rural Medical Scholars program. “Taking what we have learned the last few years, we are ready to go to the next level.”

There are three components within the Wright Rural Medical Scholars program. They include the rural track, stand-alone rural experiences and Advocates for Rural Medicine, a student organization at the medical school.

The rural track is for students who want an extensive rural clinical education experience and who plan to practice in a rural community after they complete their training. The students selected to be on the rural track are required to complete rural-based activities throughout their undergraduate medical education. Upon the successful completion of all requirements, those in the rural track will be recognized at graduation.

Students not in the rural track will still have opportunities to participate in rural activities, such as single rural clerkships or electives. They also may become a member of the student organization Advocates for Rural Medicine. Within the student organization, medical students learn about the unique challenges and rewards that come with practicing medicine in a rural community.

Wright Rural Medical Scholars works in collaboration with the Lake Campus, located in Celina on Grand Lake St. Marys, about 90 miles northwest of Wright State’s Dayton Campus. The Lake Campus is Wright State’s only regional campus and aims to meet the educational needs of West Central Ohio residents.

The Wright Rural Medical Scholars program is funded by Ohio Area Health Education Center funds. HealthPath of Ohio provided the program with more than three years of funding to get it off the ground. During that time, leaders were able to identify and develop rural clinical partners, educate students on the opportunities in rural communities and establish a plan for long-term sustainability.

“The rural program has been successful because all the invested parties want the same outcome, which is more physicians in rural Ohio. The partnering health systems host medical students so they can better recruit them to join their systems. The rural communities want to show the students the merits of living in a small town,” Martensen said. “For the Boonshoft School of Medicine, the Wright Rural Medical Scholars program fits its mission of placing graduates in health professional shortage areas.”

For more information on the program, contact Lori Martensen, director, at 937-775-8318 or lori.martensen@wright.edu.

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