Rural Health Scholarly Concentration

Rural communities are suffering; rates of drug addiction, chronic disease and suicide are high among this particular group. Physicians, especially those interested in primary care or working in a rural area, could benefit tremendously from the extra coursework and projects involved with the Rural Health Scholarly Concentration.

This concentration is an excellent opportunity for students who want to go into family medicine to learn about rural communities and their unique concerns. Students who participate in the Rural Health Scholarly Concentration learn about the fundamentals of public health and research methods commonly used in public health research. Likewise, students learn about the intersection between public health and medicine as well as how living in a rural community affects overall health outcomes for this population.

This is a good fit for someone who wants to work in a rural area/small town or a critical-access hospital. It may also appeal to students who haven’t decided where they would like to go but are originally from a more rural part of the Midwest. Also, anyone working in primary care would benefit from this program, as even those who plan to work in urban areas or academic medical centers will most likely care for patients from rural areas. It is essential that physicians in all specialties know how to care for this population and understand their unique challenges and needs.


The didactic coursework teaches students about community and behavior public health issues and methods, preparing students for their Scholarly Concentration research project. The coursework and project are designed to prepare medical students for engaging with unique health issues faced by rural populations. Students in the Rural Health Scholarly Concentration receive one-on-one attention and are exposed to the fundamentals of research and public health.

Prospective Projects

Many of the Scholarly Concentration projects and products mirror the Community Health Project (CHP), a year-long, longitudinal public health project that IU School of Medicine-Terre Haute Rural Medical Education Program students must complete for graduation. For the Rural Health Scholarly Concentration, students conduct a truncated version of the CHP. Past projects have included investigations into the correlation between participants’ insurance status and emergency room visits for non-emergent reasons, as well as the relationship between breastfeeding success and postpartum depression.


Ellen M. Ireland

Ellen M. Ireland

Visiting Lecturer in Family Medicine, IU School of Medicine-Terre Haute
Robin Danek, MPH

Robin Danek, MPH

Rural Medical Education Program Manager

Terre Haute Campus MD Program

The co-directors are both public health specialists with advanced degrees in public health, along with several years of community research experience. IU School of Medicine-Terre Haute is the headquarters for the Rural Medical Education Program, which trains students to work in rural areas. The Rural Medical Education Program has over the years developed connections with rural practitioners and critical access hospitals around the state. This is a small campus, which means students get as much one-on-one time with instructors as they desire. The small number of students on campus receive help tailoring their projects to their needs and interests.