Undergraduate Rural Medical Education Program Development: Focus Group Consultation With the NRHA Rural Medical Educators Group


  • The authors would like to thank the rural medical educators who participated in the 2008 conclave. The perspectives, ideas, and insights shared in the focus group made this research possible. The authors would also like to thank Ms. Rebecca Holland, Research Specialist, Center for Research, Evaluation, Assessment, and Training Services, The University of Southern Mississippi, for editing the manuscript.

  • For further information, contact: Laura H. Downey, DrPH, The University of Southern Mississippi, Department of Community Health Sciences, 118 College Drive, Box 5122, Hattiesburg, MS 39406; e-mail laura.m.hall@usm.edu.


Context: Over a decade ago, leaders in rural medical education established the Rural Medical Educators (RME) Group, an interest group within the National Rural Health Association, to support faculty in rural medical education programs. This group has convened an annual RME conclave since 2006. In 2008, this conclave convened 15 national leaders in rural medical education at The University of Alabama.

Methods: In preparation for the conclave, potential participants were e-mailed a set of questions regarding their respective medical education program's initiating motivation, support, resistance, resources, accomplishments, and continuation plans. Analysis of participants’ responses resulted in a question guide that was used at a focus group conducted at the conclave.

Purpose: The purpose of the focus group was to explore the experiences of established rural medical educators related to program development and maintenance. The focus group was recorded and transcribed, and then analyzed using the constant comparative method.

Findings: Five essential elements for rural medical education programs emerged from the analysis. The elements were: admit the right student, include curricular elements that occur and are required in rural training sites, establish a cadre of rural physicians who are dedicated to education of their successors, secure financial and relational support for the program, and evaluate program progress.

Discussion and Conclusions: Discussion about these 5 elements can provide program guidance to neophyte rural medical education programs. Five recommendations are presented in an effort to continue discussion about the essential elements and identify actions that rural medical educators can take to further assist developing programs.