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Rural Medical Scholars

Filed Under:
Publication Number: M1917
Updated: September 29, 2016
View as PDF: M1917.pdf

Mississippi has the lowest number of physicians per capita in the nation. Almost half of all Mississippians lack access to a primary care physician; 56 percent of the state’s primary care physicians practice in only four counties. Clearly, this limited access to care for our citizens contributes to many of the negative health status indicators plaguing the state. It also fails to capitalize on the ability of healthcare to serve as an economic driver within our communities.

In response to this concern, the Mississippi State University Extension Service developed and directs the Rural Medical Scholars (RMS) program. The objective of the program is to “grow local docs” for the state by identifying talented and interested high school students and exposing them to academics and experiences relevant to the life of a family medicine physician. During the program, the Scholars enroll in two pre-medicine courses, “shadow” local physicians, and participate in a variety of activities related to the life of a physician.

The addition of one physician to a community contributes an average of $2 million in additional economic output and an average of 21 new jobs.

To ensure the availability of future healthcare providers, the Mississippi State University Extension Service is working today to start a pipeline for tomorrow. Today’s Scholars come from communities all across the state, in both rural and urban environments. Each year, Scholars continue to graduate from medical school, complete residency training, enter private practice, especially in primary care, and remain in Mississippi. RMS alumni now practice as primary care physicians in Brandon, Pontotoc, Madison, Oxford, Jackson, and Flowood.

Images of doctors interacting with Rural Medical Scholar students.

The Rural Medical Scholars program ran from 1998 to 2007, was not offered in 2008 or 2009 due to lack of funding, but was reinstated and ran from 2010 to 2016. In 2017, it will again be offered, funded primarily by the MSU Extension Service with some assistance from the State Office of Rural Health.

Rural Medical Scholars Alumni Give Back

Numerous Scholars have given back to the program over the years. They have served as summer counselors and tutors, and assisted with promotional efforts in their communities. The physician pictured to the left was a 2003 Scholar and served as a counselor for two summers during his college years. He is chief resident at one of the clinics where the Scholars shadow each week and enjoys sharing knowledge with fellow Scholars in pursuit of similar goals.

Program Successes

  • 367 students have participated in the RMS program.
  • Scholars have come from 66 of the state’s 82 counties.
  • 26%of participants have been minorities; 60% female, 40% male.
  • Approximately 71% of our graduates have gone on to pursue health-related careers.
  • 37 have gone to medical school.
  • 32 are practicing physicians (residency or private practice) as of today.
    • 24 in primary care
    • 14 in Mississippi
  • Others are pursuing careers in nursing, pharmacy, dentistry, counseling, physical or occupational therapy, and medical research.
  • Physicians in Starkville, Columbus, West Point, and Tupelo voluntarily participate in the program by providing weekly shadowing experiences for the Scholars.
    • More than 100 physicians have participated since the program began.
    • Each year, 30 to 50 participate.

Rural Medical Scholars:
A program for Mississippi—its citizens and its communities.

For additional information, please visit our Rural Medical Scholars page.


Contact Your County Office


Extension Instructor
Rural Medical Scholars Program Director/Community Health Coordinator

Your Extension Experts

Asst Extension/Research Prof
State Health Specialist
Extension Instructor
Rural Medical Scholars Program Director/Community Health Coordinator

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