About the Program

Frontier And Rural Medicine (FARM), the University of South Dakota Sanford School of Medicine's rural track medical student program, is a unique opportunity for a select group of Pillar 2 medical students to obtain nine months of their clinical training in rural communities. 

The Sanford School of Medicine has long been recognized for our excellence in rural medical education. This includes being consistently ranked by U.S. News and World Report as a "top 10" medical school for rural medicine. By establishing the rural track program we're building upon this tradition. The ultimate goal of the FARM program is to increase the number of primary care physicians who practice in rural South Dakota.

Through the FARM program students will gain an understanding of the benefits of a rural lifestyle, learn the rewards and challenges of practicing in a rural community, and develop a level of comfort in practicing in a rural healthcare setting.

Our Communities

The inaugural communities for the program are long-term teaching sites for the Department of Family Medicine.

  • Milbank

  • Mobridge

  • Parkston

  • Platte

  • Winner

The sites were selected through a competitive process. The SSOM has many excellent rural training sites due to the long standing rural family medicine preceptorships and clerkships for many years. This allowed us to select the sites best suited for the FARM program. 

In 2015, we selected three additional sites for the program. 

  • Pierre
  • Spearfish
  • Vermillion

Clinical Experience

At their rural clinical sites, students will participate in the full spectrum of rural medicine as they provide supervised care and follow patients and their families over time in clinic, hospital, and extended care settings. Training in rural communities offers medical students the opportunity to experience increased hands-on-education, 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. 

Students will gain an understanding of the rewards and challenges of rural practice while living, learning, and becoming engaged in their communities. Students will not only be assisting in the provision of healthcare services but in community health education and will complete a community project as a part of the curriculum with the support of partners such as the South Dakota Area Health Education Center.

Learning will be enhanced through specialty clinics on-site, academic faculty visits, on-line cases, telemedicine, and videoconferencing. Community ambassadors will assist in introducing students to and engaging students in their communities. Students will be provided housing at their rural sites.

National studies have demonstrated that students trained in rural track programs, like FARM, perform at the same level as traditionally trained students on standardized and clinical skills testing.

FARM Students

The first students selected for the program began training in their FARM communities July 2014. 

Up to six students (1-2 per site) per year are selected to participate in the program.  Students may apply to the program in the fall of the first academic year. FARM program leaders and community representatives give a presentation to first-year students explaining the program. An application process follows for interested students. Applicants are interviewed by members of the FARM Program Selection Committee and notified of the committee's decisions. Students are subsequently matched with communities on the basis of student preferences, with the goal to honor their first or second choices.

Faculty and Staff

Susan M. Anderson, M.D., FARM Program Director, Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Family Medicine
Laura Harmelink, R.N., Assistant Director FARM, Department of Family Medicine
Debra Wilka, Senior Secretary, Department of Family Medicine