Rural Track Program FAQ
What is the Rural Track?
The University of South Dakota Sanford School of Medicine’s rural track is called Frontier And Rural Medicine (FARM). It is a unique opportunity for a select group of third year students to obtain nine months of their clinical training in carefully selected rural communities. Students will complete 12 weeks of prerequisites, including clinical experiences, prior to moving to their training sites.
Frontier And Rural Medicine was established by Senate Bill 197, which increased the class size of the Sanford School of Medicine for the purpose of developing a rural track program for up to six students.
Why was the Rural Track (FARM) created?
There is a rural health crisis. There are not enough physicians within easy access of citizens residing in many of our rural and frontier communities. Meanwhile, South Dakotans are aging, as are South Dakota’s primary care physicians. It is estimated that by 2025, 21.6% of our population will be 65 years of age and older. A 2006 study by the America Academy of Family Physicians showed that nearly 36 percent of South Dakota’s family physicians were 50-64 years of age with more than 68 percent 40-64 years of age. Data from the American College of Physicians in 2007 revealed that nearly 31 percent of general internists were 50-64 years of age and 61 percent between the ages of 40 and 64. We were also inspired by our medical students who wanted the option of having a high-quality educational experience in rural medicine. Through the FARM program, students will gain an understanding of the rewards of living in a rural community and a level of comfort in practicing in a rural healthcare setting.
Do any other institutions have a Rural Track (FARM) program?
Yes, there are several programs. The oldest program is the University of Minnesota’s Rural Physician Associate Program, established by the Minnesota State Legislature in 1970. Over the history of the program, more than 70% of RPAP graduates are in primary care (>60% family medicine). Two-thirds of graduates practice in Minnesota and two-thirds practicing in Minnesota are in rural communities. Two nearby universities with newer rural track programs include: the University of North Dakota, which established the Rural Opportunities in Medicine (ROME) program, and the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, which established the Wisconsin Academy of Rural Medicine (WARM) program. Our FARM program is being modeled primarily on the Minnesota program.
What will students in the Rural Track (FARM) do?
Following preparation at one of the school’s major campus sites, which will include a variety of clinical experiences and advanced clinical skills training, students will move to their rural site for nine months of their third year. Students will participate in the full spectrum of the practice of rural medicine as they provide supervised care and follow patients and their families over time in clinic, hospital and extended care settings. Students will have opportunities for increased hands-on educational experiences, gain an appreciation of the benefits of continuity in patient care, and develop strong bonds with instructors who mentor students on the professional and personal aspects of being a physician. Learning will be enhanced by specialty clinics on-site, academic faculty visits, on-line cases, telemedicine and videoconferences. Students will learn the rewards and challenges of rural practice while living, learning and becoming engaged in their communities. Students will complete a community project.
Which rural communities are involved?
Five South Dakota communities have been selected as the first clinical sites. The locations are: Milbank, Mobridge, Winner, Platte and Parkston. Selection of the communities utilized a competitive request for proposals process that was widely distributed. Among eligibility requirements, communities needed to have populations of fewer than 10,000 people.
When do you plan to put the first students in the rural communities?
The program will be readied by July 2014. However, students matriculating into the Sanford School of Medicine applied and were accepted into our school prior to the approval of the FARM program. They will be third-year students in July of 2014. We will promote the program to these students and hope to place a few in FARM locations. Students applying to our school for admission in July 2013 will have knowledge of this program and be recruited to it. Up to six students will be in FARM locations by the spring of 2015.
Do you expect that students in the Rural Track (FARM) will be able to get a comprehensive clinical experience?
Yes. From ongoing review of data we are required to track, we know that students on our rural 2nd Year Preceptorship and 4th Year Family Medicine see a broad spectrum of patients. We also know from national studies, that students trained in rural track programs like FARM perform at least as well as traditionally trained students on standardized and clinical skills testing. It should also be understood that students will have another year of medical education on one of our main campuses following the FARM program to address special areas of interest or expand skills in selected areas.