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Summer Youth Program Targets Future Doctors
By Kelli McPhail
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- A new program to help high school juniors select a career in medicine may improve one of Mississippi's most life-threatening concerns -- rural health care.
Of the 82 counties in Mississippi, 57 counties have a shortage of primary care physicians. Encouraging physicians to move to rural areas could help residents and travelers feel safe while living in or traveling through the undermanned counties.
Mississippi State University's Extension Service and the state's 15 community colleges have formed a Rural Health Corps dedicated to improving Mississippi's health care. The Rural Health Corps is launching the Rural Medical Scholars program to attract students into the medical profession in rural areas.
Dr. Julia Welch, rural health policy coordinator for MSU's Extension Service, said the program seeks to expose high school students to college level learning and to give them an idea of a physician's behind-the-scenes workday.
"We want to recruit high school students into medicine, especially into the family practice field," Welch said. "We feel that not only will the students receive a great learning experience, but the state will also benefit in the long run from this program."
Each community college in Mississippi will sponsor two students from its district to participate. During the five-week program, the students will take principles of zoology with a lab and college algebra for a total of seven hours of college credit.
The classes, limited only to these scholars, will be held in the morning and a zoology lab will take place two afternoons a week. One afternoon a week, the students will shadow a primary care physician in hospital and clinical settings, tour area health- care facilities or listen to speakers in the medical field.
"Through this program, the students should gain a better understanding of what a career as a physician will be like and how important a physician is to a rural community," Welch said. "I also think they will gain more knowledge of medical education curricula."
Even though students will have to give up part of their summer, they will benefit by meeting physicians who could help them get a job later in life.
After completing the program, a graduation ceremony will honor the students for their achievements throughout the five weeks.
Requirements for applying to the program include the completion of your junior year in high school, a minimum composite ACT score of 25, a desire to learn about a career in family medicine, and residency in Mississippi.
Applications are due to high school guidance counselors by April 15, and will be forwarded to the sponsoring community college for the selection of scholars from that district.
With the sponsorship from the Rural Health Corp Project and a registration fee of $25, the students will receive tuition, housing and food for the five-week experience.
For more information or an application, contact your local home economist, 4-H youth agent, the nearest community college or high school guidance counselor.