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Providing health care services in rural communities in Canada remains a challenge. What affects a family medicine resident's decision concerning practice location? Does the resident's background or exposure to rural practice during clinical rotations affect that decision?Cross-sectional mail survey of 159 physicians who graduated from the Family Medicine Program at Queen's University, Kingston, Ont., between 1977 and 1991. The outcome variables of interest were the size of community in which the graduate chose to practise on completion of training (rural [population less than 10 000] v. nonrural [population 10 000 or more]) and the size of community of practice when the survey was conducted (1993). The predictor or independent variables were age, sex, number of years in practice, exposure to rural practice during undergraduate and residency training, and size of hometown.Physicians who were raised in rural communities were 2.3 times more likely than those from nonrural communities to choose to practise in a rural community immediately after graduation (95% confidence interval 1.43-3.69, p = 0.001). They were also 2.5 times more likely to still be in rural practice at the time of the survey (95% confidence interval 1.53-4.01, p = 0.001). There was no association between exposure to rural practice during undergraduate or residency training and choosing to practise in a rural community.Physicians who have roots in rural Canada are more likely to practise in rural Canada than those without such a background.