Admission Factors Predicting Family Medicine Specialty Choice: A Literature Review and Exploratory Study Among Students in the Rural Medical Scholars Program


  • This study was partially funded by a $2,000 grant from the Research Council of the College of Community Health Sciences of the University of Alabama. For further information, contact: Daniel M. Avery, Jr., MD, Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology, University of Alabama, School of Medicine, 850 Fifth Avenue, East Tuscaloosa, AL 35401; e-mail:


Purpose: The Rural Medical Scholars Program (RMSP) was created to increase production of rural family physicians in Alabama. Literature review reveals reasons medical students choose careers in family medicine, and these reasons can be categorized into domains that medical schools can address through admission, curriculum, and structural interventions. We examine whether admission factors can predict family medicine specialty choice among students recruited from rural Alabama.

Methods: We developed a questionnaire to study the ability of admission factors to predict family medicine specialty choice among Rural Medical Scholars (RMS). Eighty RMS graduates were surveyed by mail and 64 (80%) responded.

Findings: Student characteristics of humanitarian outlook with commitment to rural or underserved populations, family medicine decision or intention made before or at medical school admission, and community influence were positive associations with RMS choosing family medicine residencies; shadowing in an urban hospital was a negative association.

Conclusions: Statements of interest, intentions, plans, and decisions regarding family medicine should be elicited at the time of RMSP admission interview. Strong attachment to home community and commitment to serving and living in a rural area are also important. Students whose introduction to medicine was informed through shadowing or observing in urban hospitals should be considered less likely to become family physicians. Larger sample size studies are needed to assess the role of gender, race, marital status, size of rural town, and MCAT score of candidates in affecting residency choices of students selected for this rural medical education track.