The Minnesota Rural Health School (MRHS), which operated from 1996 to 2003, was the University of Minnesota's first initiative that provided rural, community-based, interdisciplinary health professions education. The newly funded Minnesota Area Health Education Center (AHEC) is now coordinating interprofessional rural clinical education at the Academic Health Center level for the university.
The service-learning curricular component is one of the most lasting legacies of the MRHS. This article provides a descriptive summary of the initial 61 service-learning projects completed by students from various health professions who participated in the MRHS and indicates the type of projects that have continuing effects. The seven community site coordinators affiliated with the MRHS completed a survey analyzing service-learning projects performed in their communities. Student interest was predominant in selecting 28% of the 61 projects, community interest was paramount in selecting 10%, and a mixture of both student and community interest contributed to 62% of project selection. Thirty of the projects were designed as single interventions, and the remaining 31 projects have ongoing impact. Students demonstrated interprofessional group synergy and significant creativity in addressing multiple community health care issues and needs, within time constraints of only ten to 12 days in which to develop and implement a service-learning project. Two project examples are described in detail to illustrate the challenges and successes of this type of civic engagement.