A Closer Look at Regional Medical Campuses

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“Are Regional Medical Campuses More Isolating for Minority Students?” was asked in a recent letter to the editor by Campbell and Rodríguez.1 Although the authors raise a thoughtful concern, we feel they are generalizing the potential for isolation at regional campuses without data to support their conclusion.
Regional medical campuses (RMCs) are a diverse mix across North America. It is our perspective that RMCs are uniquely qualified to support all students, including those who traditionally have been underrepresented in medicine, and perhaps even exceed main campus outcomes in doing so. Of course, each case is different, so the outcomes depend on the specifics. Some students might be better nurtured at an RMC while others might find the main campus more accommodating.
Typically, RMCs with their smaller size are more nimble than main campuses; often, RMC students are more closely connected to one another and can have closer ties to host communities. Students from RMCs commonly cite their increased clinical exposure as an advantage. Having a medical education campus is important to the communities that host RMCs, and the goodwill is often expressed through impressive systems of caring for the entire RMC family. In many ways, this is what can be attractive to underrepresented students. The University of Minnesota’s Duluth RMC is one such example. They have the enviable record of averaging 6 to 7 Native American students within a cohort of 60; in 2016 they had 11 Native American students in the entering class! In support of the Duluth RMC mission, 18% of the faculty is Native American.
We have all experienced students transferring from RMCs back to the main campus, but we also know of numerous examples when students successfully moved in the opposite direction. Ultimately, RMCs come in many different shapes and sizes; there is no one-size-fits-all rule. The time is ripe to learn more about these nuances. In doing so, we think there are many treasures to be discovered.
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