Purpose: To report on the retention and practice outcomes of the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Rockford Rural Medical Education (RMED) Program and to examine distance from influential locations in relation to graduates’ current practice location.
Method: The RMED Program recruits candidates from rural backgrounds, provides a supplemental curriculum addressing rural topics and experiences, and tracks graduates’ practice location and specialty choice outcomes. Practice location and specialty were compared for 160 RMED graduates and 2,663 non-RMED graduates, from 1997 to 2007. Rural status was based on rural–urban commuting codes. Comparisons were made using cross-tabulation with calculation of chi-square or odds ratios to assess differences.
Results: RMED graduates were 14.4 times more likely than non-RMED graduates to choose family medicine; 6.7 times more likely to choose a primary care practice specialty; 17.2 times more likely to be currently practicing in a rural location; and 12.8 times more likely to be currently practicing in a primary care shortage zip code. Analysis of current RMED graduates’ practice locations indicates that 41.9% were within 90 miles of their fourth-year preceptorship community. Among RMED graduates practicing in Illinois, 62.1% and 73.3% were located within 60 and 90 miles, respectively, of their hometown.
Conclusions: Recruitment of students combined with a rural-focused curriculum yielded positive outcomes related to primary care practice and decisions regarding practice location. RMED graduates were considerably more likely than non-RMED graduates to choose family medicine, choose a primary care specialty, and be currently practicing in a rural location.