Madisonville program aims to develop home-grown doctors

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Rural areas are too often underserved by the medical community, but a Madisonville program targeting high-school seniors as prospective health-care providers is helping change that.

There are many programs in rural areas for students in the medical field, but most require students to relocate for six weeks during the summer to an urban area with a medical school, Jenny Smith reported in the Madisonville Messenger.

Baptist Health
‘s High School Rural Scholars Program reverses that requirement by allowing students entering their senior year of high school to gain experience in the medical field without leaving their home county.

HSRS students divide time between shadowing medical professionals and preparing for college entrance exams. They have access to a virtual classroom with college professors available via the internet to improve their knowledge base, as well as test-taking skills. It is held during the same time as the Governor’s Scholars Program, targeting the “second tier” of students most likely to benefit from the virtual classroom.

Baptist Health’s Trover Campus in Madisonville serves as the central support site for the program, program officials said in a release. Students from Hopkins County and its adjacent counties are considered for the program. The students work 30 hours each week and receive a small stipend for participating in the three-week program.

To date, 226 students have participated in the program; 75 percent of former HSRS participants are enrolled in or have have completed a health career training program, HSRS officials say. Dr. Jonathan Moore is an HSRS alumnus who is currently finishing his residency in Madisonville.

“My time with the High School Rural Scholars showed me the value of a physician to their community,” Moore said in the Messenger. “It inspired me to become a physician so that I could improve the lives of others.”

The Trover Campus was established in 1998 as a branch of the University of Louisville School of Medicine. The HSRS program was founded two years later.

Campus Associate Dean Dr. Bill Crump told Smith that he shares the same vision for rural health as did Dr. Lowman Trover, who founded Trover Clinic, now Baptist Health Madisonville, in 1953.

“When I moved here 18 years ago, it was because I saw the potential to realize Dr. Trover’s dream of ‘growing our own doctors,'” Crump said, “but as we began, we just weren’t being successful in getting students from the small towns in our area admitted into medical school. We knew we had to begin early to raise their expectations and sharpen their academic skills.

“When I had the initial idea for this program, we had well-meaning adults tell us high school seniors just aren’t mature enough to benefit from such a program,” he continued. “Our students have proven the concept valid, and I’ve been fortunate to see many of them develop into remarkable health care professionals.”

The University of Kentucky partners with Morehead State University and several hospitals and clinics for a similar initiative, the Rural Physician Leadership Program. Much like HSRS, the UK program also strives to provide rural areas with qualified doctors.

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