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October 26, 2004   Email to Friend 

Alfa Donates $1.8 Million For Scholarship Fund To Train Rural Physicians
Jeff Helms

RMSP Director Dr. John Wheat looks on as Alfa Rural Medical Scholar Terry James takes Alfa President Jerry Newby's blood pressure during a tour of the new medical school building at the University of Alabama.
Alfa Insurance and the Alabama Farmers Federation have provided $1.8 million to create an endowed scholarship fund for medical students at the University of Alabama School of Medicine who plan to serve rural communities.

Students enrolled in the Rural Medical Scholars Program (RMSP) who demonstrate financial need are eligible to apply to the Alfa Rural Medical Scholars Program Endowed Loan Fund. The loan is forgiven for students who, upon finishing their training, serve five years in a rural setting.

"One of our state's critical health care needs is more physicians in rural areas," said Carol Z. Garrison, president of the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). "Alfa Companies have recognized this need and provided a most generous gift so that we can begin to address this problem."

Alfa Farmers President Jerry Newby said the scholarship fund will give students from rural areas the opportunity to return to their hometowns to practice medicine.

"Almost 60 years ago, the Alabama Farmers Federation founded Alfa Insurance to help better serve rural communities. By helping educate rural physicians, our company is continuing its legacy of service to farmers and rural Alabamians," Newby said. "The bright young men and women who participate in the Rural Medical Scholars Program will help improve the health of rural people, and by establishing practices in small towns, they will contribute to the economic health of the entire state."

Dr. John Wheat, director and founder of the RMSP, said Alfa's donation will help improve the quality of life for farm families and rural Alabamians.

"Future rural physicians, such as Terry James of Winston County (who is attending medical school on an Alfa scholarship), are one component in the overall plan needed to make rural and farm life safe, secure and rewarding to current and future farm families."

The RMSP is a special medical education track for rural students who plan to become rural primary care physicians. The RMSP begins with a year of special study of rural health issues and community medicine at the College of Community Health Sciences, which is both a college of the University of Alabama and a branch campus of the UA School of Medicine headquartered in Birmingham. Rural Medical Scholars then matriculate to medical school at UAB, returning to the Tuscaloosa campus in the last two years of medical school for clinical training which includes a focus on rural primary care. When fully endowed, scholarships will provide support for the pre-matriculation year at UA and four years of medical school for Rural Medical Scholars.

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