Focus of student doctors is rural health care

Published 10:08 pm Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Seven student doctors have completed their first year of medical school at A.T. Still University School of Osteopathic Medicine in Mesa, Arizona and will now complete years two, three and four on the Troy University campus.

Through a contract with the Alabama Medical Education Consortium (AMEC) and a partnership with A.T. Still University School of Osteopathic Medicine, a pod of up to 10 pre-med students participates in the on-campus program that is designed to train medical students whose focus is rural medicine.

“The students doctors all have a passion for service and a desire to practice rural primary care,” said Dr. Philip Reynolds, regional director of medical education Alabama Medical Education Consortium Troy University.

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Reynolds said that in 2007 AMEC joined forces with A.T. Still University and the National Association of Community Health Care Centers in the development of a medical school designed to train primary care physicians for rural and underserved communities.

“The School of Osteopathic Medicine is a unique medical school comprised of 10 community campuses nationwide with each providing a venue for contextual learning,” Reynolds said. “Immersing the students in rural practice environments enhances learning by affording students the opportunity to connect theory to clinical application, making them clinically culturally adept physicians with a unique knowledge of rural populations.

“Most medical students don’t have these clinical opportunities in their second year of medical school. The seven students at Troy University will work with local physicians and be a visible part of the Troy community.”

Student doctor Caleb Whaley is from the Dothan area and said the AMEC is providing him with the opportunity to receive his training where he plans to practice medicine.

“My focus is community medicine,” Whaley said. “My interest is not just what we might consider medicine. It includes counseling as well. Alabama is my home. I love the state and the people. Alabama is where I want to practice medicine.”

Whaley said his first year at ATSU was a outstanding learning experience and prepared him for the three years that he will study at Troy University.

The first year of study involved the learning of the basic sciences. During year two, students learn a continuation of the basic sciences and will have clinical experiences integrated into their weekly schedule.

As clinical requirements increase during the third and fourth year clerkships, students spend eight and four hours in the classroom consecutively.

By participating in the program, Troy University is helping cure Alabama’s physician shortage.

For information about the Alabama Medical Education Consortium call 251-947-6288 or e-mail