With this grant award, Missouri Delta Medical Center becomes a training center for medical students, according to Sharon Urhahn, marketing director for the hospital.
The $995,000 award is one of the largest grants to a training program ever given by the Missouri Foundation for Health.
The grant will be used to expand the MU School of Medicine's rural track program through which medical students are recruited, trained and placed in rural communities in Missouri. The program was ranked third in the nation by U.S. News & World Report's Best Graduate Schools, 2006 Edition.
Kathleen Quinn, who directs the university's Area Health Center, said during a press conference held Tuesday at MDMC that if physicians end up practicing in a rural area it is because they grew up, trained or did their medical residency in a rural area.
"The rural track program began in 1995 and functions as an 11-year pipeline curriculum designed to identify students with an interest in rural medicine," said Linda Headrick, a physician and senior associate dean for medical education and faculty development who directs the rural track program.
"This grant from the Missouri Foundation for Health will help us increase the number of physicians practicing in rural and underserved areas of Missouri," Headrick said.
This includes an expansion of the teaching center in Sikeston to serve more counties in southeast Missouri as well as developing new rural teaching sites to serve the southwest quadrant of the state.
Quinn said the grant enables them to add Sikeston and East Prairie as places for third-year medical students to do a six-month study in a rural area.
"We will also be expanding our preadmissions medical school Bryant Scholar program to admit five more students annually for a total of 15," Quinn said.
Bryant Scholars are exceptional students from rural communities who are committed to practicing medicine in rural communities. Recipients are granted preadmission into medical school after their freshman year as undergraduate students, work with a community physician during a summer program between their first and second years of medical school and participate in rural clerkships during their third year of medical school.
Quinn also announced the addition of a bridging program to the curriculum to work with physicians in establishing rural practices in Missouri.
"We have been waiting on this program for some time," said Charles Ancell, CEO for MDMC.
Ancell recalled as far back as five years ago expressing interest in bringing medical students to Sikeston and providing "the opportunity to come to a non-urban hospital and see what it is like to practice medicine in a small community."
William "Cully" Bryant of the Ferguson Medical Group in Sikeston, a family practice physician who graduated from the MU School of Medicine and did his medical residency through the school, said he is from here and grew up here and is back practicing medicine in Sikeston because of a program like this one.
For students who are considering practicing in a rural area, exposure to rural practices early in their training is often a deciding experience, Bryant said. He said it can show students positive aspects such as being part of a community and having a closer relationship with patients while dispelling myths about a rural practices such as a poorer quality of life or less interaction with medical peers.
Bryant will serve as the medical director for Sikeston's Area Health Education Center program.
"I will also be pivotal in acclimating them to the area," he said, whether it be to rural life in general or specifically rural life in Sikeston.
The Missouri Foundation for Health, the state's largest not-for-profit health foundation, was formed with money obtained in a lawsuit by the state of Missouri against Blue Cross Blue Shield when it went from a public to private entity.