Quick access to medical care in many of Alabama’s rural areas is limited or non-existent because it is difficult to recruit doctors to those areas and, in some cases, it is difficult to sustain a practice.
But a program started by the University of Alabama Department of Community Health Services in 1996, Alabama Medical Rural Scholars, aims to train physicians to serve those areas, reducing the impact of inadequate health care access in rural Alabama.
Caitlin Tidwell, of Lexington, and Caleb Turberville, of Cherokee, were both accepted into the 2012 class. Each year, approximately 10 students are named Alabama Medical Rural Scholars. The five-year program includes completion of a master’s degree in rural community health and four years of medical school at the Alabama School of Medicine at UAB.
Tidwell was valedictorian of the 2008 graduation class at Lexington High School and graduated from the University of North Alabama in 2012 with a bachelor of science degree in biology.
Turberville graduated from Cherokee High School in 2008 and graduated from the University of Alabama with a degree in biology.
Statistics gathered by Dale Quinney, of the Alabama Office of Rural Health, show 60 of Alabama’s 67 counties report a shortage of primary care health professionals, according to a news release about the rural medical scholars program.
Statistics also show the problem could continue to worsen in the coming years as more than half of the current primary care doctors are 55 or older.
Turberville said living in Cherokee played a big role in his decision to commit to rural medicine.
“I wanted to make a personal impact with people and have a community impact, as well,” Turberville said.
He said he hopes to return to the Shoals after completing his medical training.
“Growing up in Cherokee, I knew there were not a whole lot of services quickly available to the people of that area,” he said. “People have to drive to Muscle Shoals or Tuscumbia. I know I could be of some service in that area.”
Tidwell decided to pursue a career in medicine after surgery for a sports injury, and, after shadowing Dr. Steve Wampler in Killen, she decided to practice in a rural area, according to a university release.
Jennifer Edwards can be reached at 256-740-5754 or jennifer.edwards@TimesDaily.com.