The WWAMI Targeted Rural Underserved Track (TRUST) Program: An Innovative Response to Rural Physician Workforce Shortages

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ProblemToo few physicians practice in rural areas. To address the physician workforce needs of the Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana, and Idaho (WWAMI) region, the University of Washington School of Medicine developed the Targeted Rural Underserved Track (TRUST) program in August 2008. TRUST is a four-year curriculum centered on a clinical longitudinal continuity experience with students repeatedly returning to a single site located in a rural community or small city.ApproachThe overarching theme of TRUST is one of linkages. Students are strategically linked to a rural community, known as their TRUST continuity community (TCC). The program begins with a targeted admission process and combines new and established programs and curricular elements to form a cohesive educational experience. This experience includes repeated preclinical visits, clerkships, and electives at a student’s TCC, and rural health courses, the Underserved Pathway, and the Rural Underserved Opportunities Program (which includes a community-oriented primary care scholarly project).OutcomesTRUST was piloted in Montana in 2008. With the matriculating class of 2015, every state in the WWAMI region will have TRUST students. From 2009 (the year targeted admissions began) to 2015, 123 students have been accepted into TRUST. Thirty-three students have graduated. Thirty (90.9%) of these graduates have entered residencies in needed regional specialties.Next StepsNext steps include implementing a robust evaluation program, obtaining secure institutional programmatic funding, and further developing linkages with regional rural residency programs. TRUST may be a step forward in addressing regional needs and a reproducible model for other medical schools.

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