Skip to main content

Rural Health Scholarly Concentration

The Rural Health Scholarly Concentration offers students an opportunity to learn and engage with rural communities through public health research. The didactic coursework teaches students about community and behavioral 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.


This concentration is only open to students at the Terre Haute campus. All concentration requirements can be completed online. The scholarly project work can occur in any rural community.

Curriculum and Timeline

Students completing the rural health concentration fulfill the same core curriculum as students in other concentrations. The didactic components provide a strong academic and experiential foundation in public health with a focus on rural health that is vital for completion of the core curriculum project and product. The journal club provides a platform for students to have longitudinal discussions about concentration-related topics with a cohort of students and faculty.

Students interested in doing both the Rural Health Scholarly Concentration and IMPRS program must choose an IMPRS project from the "Community Health Partnership and Education" track. Contact the co-directors listed below for more information.

Recommended Pathway

Students determine if a concentration pathway will fit in their schedule by contacting concentration co-directors. 

Scholarly Project Topic Examples

Students work with faculty to complete a project in a relevant topic based on student interests. Students are welcome to come up with their own project idea. Potential project topics include, but are not limited to:
    • Rural cancer screening
    • Barriers to care of chronic illness
    • Access to health care specialists
    • Rural issues with prenatal and newborn care
    • Special issues related to rural opioid use
    • Environmental exposures such as lead

    Student Testimonials

    • Emma Eckrote, Class of 2022

      portrait of emma eckrote"The rural medicine education program and the scholarly concentration have strengthened my desire to serve those in my small community and have afforded me the skills to be able to do so with confidence and greater knowledge of the needs around me. It is preparing me to come home and care for those who took such good care of me."

      Why did you choose the Rural Health scholarly concentration?

      I grew up on a farm in north central Indiana. This scholarly concentration has allowed me to return home for research, connect and network with medical professionals in my community, and further educate me on the needs and challenges of rural medicine.

      What scholarly project have you chosen to undertake, and why?

      I am examining the motivations behind choosing midwifery services and community births (home and birthing center births, or out-of-hospital births). In many rural areas, women’s health and obstetric care is directed by midwives. However, much of the research behind the motivations for choosing midwifery come from urban populations. When I got a chance to shadow a midwife after my first year of medical school, I jumped on it. I became interested in learning more about midwifery, the motivations behind choosing community birth, the integration of midwives and obstetricians, and the risks and benefits that come with it. I am very excited for the chance to further explore midwifery in rural areas and why these women are choosing it over the now “traditional” obstetrics hospital-based model.

    • Reese Miller, Class of 2022

      Reese Miller"Working in rural medicine gives you the opportunity to think outside of the box and come up with care plans that can be tailored to widely different people. I feel the Rural Health scholarly concentration has taught me how to handle many of these situations while moving forward in my career."

      Why did you choose the Rural Health scholarly concentration?

      I chose the Rural Health program because it gives me an opportunity to learn more about how the health care system works in a small town. Working in rural medicine presents unique challenges. For example, you have to be able to recognize organophosphate poisoning (agricultural workers are at higher risk) and how to react to the situation without putting more people in harm’s way. You also have to be prepared to take care of someone who is unable to get to the nearest city with the appropriate level of care due to inability to travel. With this scholarly concentration, I was given the chance to learn more about rural medicine and how to handle many of these situations.

      Describe the scholarly project you’ve chosen and the inspiration behind this project.

      I am doing a project with two of my rural concentration classmates studying how COVID-19 has affected actions taken by people in rural communities. We are focusing on the rural-versus-urban differences in knowledge and actions, and how differences in funding affect those two things. Obviously, COVID-19 has affected everyone in the world in one form or another, so I wanted to understand the different actions each community took to protect themselves from the virus. I believe that differences in these actions can shed some light on public health outreach relating to rural ideologies.


    Ellen M. Ireland, PhD, MPH, MA

    Clinical Assistant Professor

    Bio and Contact Information

    Robin L. Danek, MPH

    Senior Lecturer

    Bio and Contact Information

    MD Student News

    In their words: Scholarly Concentration Q&A with Rural Health co-directors

    Robin Danek, MPH, and Ellen Ireland, PhD, MPH, share details on the Rural Health Scholarly Concentration, which offers students an opportunity to learn and engage with rural communities through public health research.

    IU School of Medicine  |  Feb 11, 2019