Summer in the Country: Changes in Medical Students’ Perceptions Following an Innovative Rural Community Experience

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The University of Missouri School of Medicine developed the Summer Community Program through which rising second-year medical students work alongside rural, community-based physician preceptors. This program is part of a comprehensive, longitudinal pipeline designed to increase student interest in rural practice. The authors describe the Summer Community Program, explain changes in students’ perceptions of rural practice and rural lifestyle post program, and report participants’ specialty choices and first practice locations.


The authors analyzed 229 participant responses (1996–2010) to pre- and postexperience questionnaires focused on perceptions of rural practice and lifestyle. The authors calculated the likelihood of participants matching into primary care compared with nonparticipants and analyzed participants’ first practice locations.


After the experience, participants’ perceptions toward rural practice and lifestyle changed favorably, and 72% (n = 208) reported more interest in rural practice. Compared with nonparticipants, summer participants were more likely to enter a primary care residency (relative risk [RR] = 1.31; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.12–1.50) and twice as likely to choose specifically family medicine (RR = 2.21; 95% CI: 1.68–2.88). Forty-six percent (n = 78) of participants chose rural locations for their first practices.


This program has positively influenced students’ perceptions of rural practice and lifestyle and increased their interest in rural practice. Participants entered primary care and family medicine residencies at higher rates than nonparticipants, and nearly half started their medical practices in rural locations. Replicating this program may increase interest in rural medicine and address rural physician workforce needs.

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