Rural doctor shortage prompts opening of medical school

Mon Aug 1, 2011 10:20am EDT
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By Kevin Murphy

KANSAS CITY, Kan (Reuters) - A Kansas college hopes young doctors will be more willing to practice in small towns if they go to a medical school in a rural area.

The University of Kansas will have what it says is the smallest four-year medical education site in the country when eight students begin taking classes on Monday on a satellite campus in Salina, Kansas. The move is in response to a shortage of rural doctors in the United States.

"By training physicians in a nonmetropolitan area, we are showing young medical students that life can be good, and practice can be stimulating, outside of the big city," said Dr. William Cathcart-Rake, the physician who directs the University of Kansas School of Medicine-Salina.

Students will get some course work via tele-video and podcasts from the school's other campuses, but they will also train through visits to doctors' offices in small communities and at the hospital in Salina, school officials said.

"It's a bold and innovative move," said Dr. Roland Goertz, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians. He said students at rural clinics will be exposed to a potential medical career they wouldn't see in urban hospital settings.

Cathcart-Rake said six of the eight students being taught at Salina, as part of their scholarships, have committed to practicing in a rural area. Seven of the eight students are from rural areas to begin with, he said.

"They see the value of living in wide open spaces and going back to where their friends are," Cathcart-Rake said. Attending medical school in a place such as Salina reduces chances they will change their minds, which could happen if they went to a big-city school, he said.

Salina, with 46,000 residents, is about 175 miles west of the Kansas City metropolitan region where the university's main medical school is located.   Continued...