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Graduate medical education and rural health care

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Abstract

Currently, residency training is neither detrimental nor helpful to the problems of rural health. Based on four generally accepted “truths” about rural health, medical schools should recruit students from rural areas, have them choose family practice as a career, and train them in rural settings. Given no substantial changes in residency training, the following recommendations are made. Develop a consensus definition of “rural.” Educate rural communities to the purpose of residency training. Residency review committees should support rural rotations of at least six months; consider the number of residencies at a site irrelevant for accreditation; judge the quality of the product as the standard of accreditation; and define teaching competency by other than specialty label. All medical school departments should be involved in seeking solutions to the problems of rural health. New opportunities for funding of rural residency training should be sought. If major changes in residency training are possible, internal medicine, family practice, and pediatrics should merge as a single primary care specialty and for residency training. Only this residency should be considered primary care for residency reimbursement purposes, and only its graduates should be reimbursed for primary care services.

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