The MD program on the Terre Haute campus offers a rural health track that emphasizes primary care and other specialties of need in rural communities.

Rural Medical Education

Physician workforce studies nationally and in Indiana show that an increasing number of physicians is required in the next 20-30 years to care for the growing population in the United States, especially in rural areas. IU School of Medicine offers the Rural Medical Education Program (RMEP) at the Terre Haute campus. This unique four-year medical school program emphasizes primary care and other specialties of need in rural communities. The curriculum is constructed to maximize the exposure of medical students to clinical experiences very early in the training process. Additionally, all basic science courses in the first two years of this medical school program have a clinical correlation and, where possible, a rural emphasis.

The Terre Haute campus of IU School of Medicine provides training to first- and second-year medical students from both the traditional MD track and the RMEP track. Students in the rural medicine track stay in Terre Haute for the third and fourth years of medical school.

Centered on the needs of rural health care delivery, medical students at the Terre Haute campus benefit from the IU School of Medicine statewide MD curriculum and experience hands-on learning in the state-of-the-art Rural Health Innovation Collaborative Simulation Center located at Union Hospital. In addition, students enjoy patient care experience throughout a statewide network of clinical sites and clerkship opportunities during the third- and fourth-year of training through affiliations with local physicians, ambulatory care facilities and teaching hospitals.

Apply to the Rural Medical Education Program

Rural Medical Education Program (RMEP) applicants are considered for the traditional MD program and the rural health track simultaneously and interview with members of both rural and traditional admission committees. Interested students must complete an AMCAS application and make a formal request to the IU School of Medicine MD Admissions Office for rural track consideration.


“The Rural Medical Education Program recruits people who are familiar with what rural life looks like and are committed to working in rural areas, in part, because that’s who they are.”

– Angela Hatfield, MD

Program Goals

The Rural Medical Education Program integrates basic and clinical sciences with a focus on rural medicine. This unique focus for the MD program seeks to:

  • Promote appreciation, understanding and respect for the rural practitioner and the rural patient
  • Equip medical students with skills and experiences unique to rural medicine
  • Provide longitudinal exposure and experiences with health care delivery in a rural setting
  • Prepare graduates who are both well-prepared for interactions with rural doctors and a competitive advantage for future GME training in the practice of rural medicine
  • Increase the number of IU School of Medicine graduates who elect to enter medical practice in a rural setting

Students at IU School of Medicine-Terre Haute benefit from seven hospital affiliation partnerships in the area. Students gain additional clinical support by studying with volunteer faculty physicians at these teaching clinical facilities.

MD Enrichment Opportunities in Terre Haute

In rural settings, physicians tend to see and treat a broader range of medical conditions than their urban counterparts. Educating physicians to practice effectively in rural settings requires an emphasis on clinical topics and skills specific to this work environment. The Rural Medical Education Program (RMEP) is designed to prepare students to develop competency and independence in performing basic clinical procedures early in their training. For example, starting from the first day of the first semester, in the Foundations of Clinical Practice course, students learn how to obtain a medical history and perform the physical examination. In this course, students practice these hands-on skills in a community setting by working weekly with a rural physician preceptor and participating monthly in a free health clinic.

Early immersion in rural health care leads to a deeper understanding of the meaningful long-term relationships that rural patients, physicians and communities develop over time. From the first semester of medical school, students in the rural medicine track have the opportunity to participate in a preceptorship program with rural physicians, develop long-term professional relationships with rural patients, gain insight to the social and cultural aspects of rural health care. Medical students on the rural track are assigned to a rural physician whom they accompany weekly in rural practice at the office, the clinic, the nursing home or other facility. This involvement in a rural medical practice is extended into a longer clerkship during the clinical years and is reinforced by an early appreciation of the rural patients’ point of view.

The Rural Medical Education Program (RMEP) is designed to integrate medical students’ developing basic science and clinical literacy with a desire to serve rural patients. Beginning in the first year, clinical content is integrated with the basic science courses using clinical correlations, medical simulation, real patient examination, and practice on standardized patients. For example, as students dissect and study the thoracic region in anatomy, they also learn how to perform a chest examination in Introduction to Medicine I. As they study the cardiovascular physiology, they also solve clinical cases on the Human Patient Simulator. Throughout the curriculum, the clinical correlations with the basic sciences emphasize rural medicine. For example, injuries and illnesses most common in rural environments are illustrated and discussed in all courses to demonstrate the multiple connections between the basic and clinical sciences. This continuous integration allows medical students to develop a comprehensive understanding of rural illnesses and their treatment.

Concentration Topic: Rural Health

This 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 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.

Bring on tomorrow
An IU medical student listens to a patient's chest with a stethoscope.

IU trains physicians to practice in rural and urban areas of critical need

The United States is facing a daunting physician shortage. According to a recent national address from American Medical Association President Jesse M. Ehrenfeld, more than 83 million people in the United States live in areas without sufficient access to a primary-care physician.

IU School of Medicine is tackling the challenge with two unique programs designed to train and retain physicians where they are needed most: in medically underserved rural and urban areas.

Laura Gates | Jan. 18, 2024

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