According to a 2017 report by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, 99 of 114 Missouri counties don’t have enough physicians, with 86 percent of the state classified as health profession shortage areas.

According to a 2017 report by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, 99 of 114 Missouri counties don’t have enough physicians, with 86 percent of the state classified as health profession shortage areas. However, a program from the University of Missouri School of Medicine is addressing that shortage by introducing students to life in rural areas before they graduate.

From July 9 through 12, 19 students pursuing health careers will gather in Hannibal as part of the second annual MU Area Health Education Center (AHEC) Rural Immersion Program. The four-day experience is designed for health professions students who are interested in living and working in a rural area. As a non-clinical experience, the program highlights the social and communal aspects of rural life. Through group activities and meetings with community leaders, participants get a preview of life as a rural health care professional.

“Serving in a rural setting provides several unique benefits, but unless students have been exposed to these communities, they often aren’t aware of them,” said Kathleen Quinn, PhD, associate dean for rural health at the MU School of Medicine. “Through the Rural Immersion Program, students will explore the non-clinical aspects of life as a health care professional in a rural area.”

Students from the following schools will get firsthand exposure to the benefits of rural life:

• MU Sinclair School of Nursing

• MU School of Health Professions

• MU School of Medicine

• University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Pharmacy

During the immersion experience, students stay in dormitories at Hannibal-LaGrange University. They will break into groups that include members of each of the health care disciplines to foster a diversity of thought and experience. Each group will spend time interviewing community leaders from four areas: business and government, education, health care and natural resources. On the final day of the program, the students present their findings to the other student groups and members of the community.

“The students should leave at the end of the program with a good idea of what it would be like to live and work in America’s Hometown. Some of these students may end up being a part of the future medical community here in Hannibal, and if not, they will go back and tell their peers what a wonderful week they had while they were here,” said Susan Wathen, Vice-President, Human Resources of Hannibal Regional.