Sara Beth Bush was raised in a small town near Birmingham, but after attending school at Judson College in rural Marion County, she was hooked on country living.So applying for the Tuscaloosa Experience to Rural Medicine (TERM) program through the University of Alabama School of Medicine was a natural fit for the third-year medical school student.Bush, who grew up in the Jefferson County town of Clay, said the program caught her attention during her first year of medical school.”I grew up near the suburbs of Birmingham and my grandfather had a few cows on his farm,” she said. “But that was about the extent of my knowledge of a working farm.”Bush is currently doing a family-rural medicine rotation as part of her schooling and works under the tutelage of Dr. Angela Powell and Dr. Alex Nettles in Monroeville. A second TERM student, Charlton P. Dennison of Coosada is working at Carrollton Primary Care in Pickens County with Dr. Julia Boothe, Dr. Cathy Skinner and Dr. Robert Neil Honea Jr.The goal of the TERM curriculum, in keeping with the mission of the Tuscaloosa campus of the University of Alabama School of Medicine, is to increase the likelihood that medical school graduates will choose primary care residencies and practice in rural Alabama communities. Rural Alabama urgently needs primary-care physicians, with many communities meeting the federally defined designation for a medical manpower shortage.The program is a key part of the students’ third-year clinical training. According to Dr. Ashley Evans, associate dean for undergraduate medical education, the curriculum is designed to introduce students to rural health issues from the perspective of practicing physicians; provide students with hands-on clinical experiences at rural, primary care practices; and provide an opportunity for students to learn about statewide rural health issues.”In a regular curriculum you spend eight weeks in a rotation. But with this program, we actually get to spend (17) weeks working in a rural area. It’s been wonderful,” said Bush, adding that she especially enjoys the “hands-on” work she’s done in Monroeville.Recently, Bush received some special training, courtesy of the Monroe County Farmers Federation. As part of her school requirements, Bush was supposed to meet with a farmer. When she contacted Monroe County President Martha Jordan, she got more than just a visit.”I thought she needed to see some of the actual equipment and livestock that farmers work around every day,” Jordan said. “Just talking would have been fine, but why not actually show her what the equipment looks like? We need good doctors in rural Alabama, and we need to do everything we can to encourage them.”The tour coordinated by Jordan included stops at several farms and discussions about various equipment and livestock handling where injuries can occur.Alabama Farmers Federation is a long-time supporter of rural medical programs at the University of Alabama. It has endowed a scholarship fund for students enrolled in the Rural Medical Scholars Program who go on to complete medical school and agree to practice five years in a rural setting.
Future Doctors Receive On-Farm Training