Bill prompts med school to serve rural areas

By Joseph Altman Jr.

Arizona Daily Wildcat

The UA College of Medicine has adopted a policy that requires all future medical students to serve at least one rotation in a rural or medically-underserved area.

The new policy, which the College of Medicine faculty approved last month, goes a step beyond new requirements instituted by the Arizona Legislature. House Bill 2392 dictates that beginning September 1996, at least 50 percent of medical students, primary-care residents, pharmacy students and nurse-practitioner students must participate in a rural rotation program.

The College of Medicine has now required that all medical students complete a rotation in a rural or medically-underserved area. House Bill 2392 does not include underserved areas.

Nancy Koff, assistant dean for curricular affairs for the College of Medicine, said, "The curriculum committee took the law and decided it would be good for all students to have at least an experience in an underserved population."

Koff said she believes it is worthwhile for students to do a rotation in a rural (a county with less than 400,000 people) or underserved area for a number of reasons.

"It provides our students with experience in working with a group that has problems getting access to health care," Koff said. "How do you provide health care and respond to your patients' needs? It's going to be different in a setting where resources are not as available."

James Dalen, dean of the College of Medicine, said, "This action by the faculty further demonstrates the College of Medicine's commitment to attract additional physicians to rural and medically underserved areas."

House Bill 2392 also specifies that the medical school must give "priority consideration to applicants who demonstrate a willingness to practice in medically underserved areas of (Arizona)."

The rotation helps medical students decide where they want to practice, Koff said.

"They need to have some experience in those areas so they can make an educated career decision; they can help to meet some of the needs in those areas," she said.

The new policy, recommended by the college's curriculum committee and approved by the faculty, will be effective with the class entering medical school this July.

Eric Vens, a pre-med molecular and cellular biology senior who has applied to the UA College of Medicine, said he supports the policy.

"If the mission of the College of Medicine is to train physicians for future careers in Arizona, and since the population of Arizona is widely spread out, it's fine to require that," Vens said.

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