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J Rural Health. 2008 Fall;24(4):345-52. doi: 10.1111/j.1748-0361.2008.00180.x.

Recruitment and retention of rural physicians: outcomes from the rural physician associate program of Minnesota.

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Center for Interprofessional Education, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA.



Founded in 1971 with state funding to increase the number of primary care physicians in rural Minnesota, the Rural Physician Associate Program (RPAP) has graduated 1,175 students. Third-year medical students are assigned to primary care physicians in rural communities for 9 months where they experience the realities of rural practice with hands-on participation, mentoring, and one-to-one teaching. Students complete an online curriculum, participate in online discussion with fellow students, and meet face-to-face with RPAP faculty 6 times during the 9-month rotation. Projects designed to bring value to the community, including an evidence-based practice and community health assessment, are completed.


To examine RPAP outcomes in recruiting and retaining rural primary care physicians.


The RPAP database, including moves and current practice settings, was examined using descriptive statistics.


On average, 82% of RPAP graduates have chosen primary care, and 68% family medicine. Of those currently in practice, 44% have practiced in a rural setting all of the time, 42% in a metropolitan setting and 14% have chosen both, with more than 50% of their time in rural practice. Rural origin has only a small association with choosing rural practice.


RPAP data suggest that the 9-month longitudinal experience in a rural community increases the number of students choosing primary care practice, especially family medicine, in a rural setting.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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