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Using area health education centers to promote interest in rural practice

Submitted: 2 March 2016
Revised: 19 July 2016
Accepted: 8 August 2016
Published: 14 September 2016

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Author(s) : Taylor JD, Goletz SE.

Citation: Taylor JD, Goletz SE.  Using area health education centers to promote interest in rural practice. Rural and Remote Health (Internet) 2016; 16: 3934. Available: (Accessed 22 October 2017)


Introduction:  In the USA, area health education centers (AHECs) work to recruit and educate students to serve in medically underserved communities, primary care, and rural settings. One important aspect of their work is connecting students with rural clinical experiences. Within these experiences, AHECs incorporate a community health/socioeconomic experience within the family medicine clerkship that may not be as prevalent in the standard family medicine clerkship experiences. The purpose of the study was to assess the relationship between AHEC-sponsored family medicine clerkships with a self-reported intent to practice in a rural setting upon graduation.
Methods:  The study compared third-year medical students with the Indiana University School of Medicine, which participated in AHEC-sponsored family medicine clerkships to the standard family medicine clerkship. Following the 4-week clerkship, students were asked to report their intent to work in a rural setting using a five-point Likert scale. A χ2 test was used to determine the association of AHEC sponsorship, clerkship site location (rural/urban) and intent to practice in a rural setting.
Results:  The study consisted of 587 students. There was a statistically significant association between self-reported intent and rural clerkship site, χ2 (1, N=587)=6.542, p=0.01. Furthermore, 21.6% (n=25) of students with a rural clerkship experience reported a greater intent compared to 12.3% (n=58) of students with non-rural clerkship experience.
Conclusions:  The study confirmed a significantly positive association between participation in medical clerkship experiences in a rural primary care setting and the intent to practice in a rural setting upon graduation. The results also support the potential value-added benefits through academic–community partnerships with AHECs, family medical and other primary care specialty clerkship programs may perhaps succeed in increasing student interest in pursuing a practice serving in rural communities upon graduation.

Key words: area health education centers, clerkship, community/academic partnership, intention, USA.

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