About the Program

Frontier And Rural Medicine (FARM), our rural track medical student program, is a unique opportunity for a select group of Pillar 2 students to receive 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: We are consistently ranked in U.S. News and World Report's top 10 medical schools for rural medicine. Our goal is to increase the number of primary care physicians who practice in rural South Dakota.

Through the FARM program, students will see the benefits of a rural lifestyle, experience the rewards and challenges of practicing in a rural community and become comfortable doing so.

Our Communities

The eight communities used in the program include: 

  • Milbank

  • Mobridge

  • Parkston

  • Platte

  • Winner

  • Pierre

  • Spearfish

  • Vermillion

The sites were selected through a competitive process. Thanks to our longstanding rural family medicine preceptorships and clerkships, we have many excellent training sites to choose from and selected the areas best suited for the FARM program. 

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. 

While living, learning and becoming engaged with their communities, students will not only provide healthcare services, but also community health education. They will complete a community project as part of the curriculum, with the support of partners such as the South Dakota Area Health Education Center.

On-site specialty clinics, academic faculty visits, online cases, telemedicine and videoconferencing will all be used to help students learn. Community ambassadors will introduce students to and engage them in their communities, providing them with housing at the sites.

FARM Students

Up to nine students (one to two per site) are selected each year 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, after which students may apply. 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 and community availability with the goal to honor one of their top choices.

Faculty and Staff

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