Mississippi program matches medical school students with rural communities

Mississippi program matches medical school students with rural communities

JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - Mississippi needs more doctors. Without them, it restricts access to care for many in the Magnolia State. If you live in a metro area, you may have never thought about what happens when a doctor moves or even retires. It’s a different story in rural Mississippi.

“There are so many counties that don’t have a physician," said Mississippi Rural Physicians Scholarship Program Associate Director Dan Coleman. "And also there’s a lot of counties that have physicians that have been practicing for 30 plus years. You don’t have anyone that’s going to come in and take their place, that means there’s going to be a shortage of healthcare to service that area.”

That’s what the Mississippi Rural Physicians Scholarship Program tries to combat.

“So, if I get the scholarship for two years, I owe the state of Mississippi two years of my service,” explained Coleman.

But fourth year medical student Griffin Metcalf doesn’t want to stop there.

“I do know that my desire, my wife and I want to go somewhere that we can stay long-term and not just a few years and then leave," noted Metcalf. "We want to be able to invest in the community and lay down roots.”

More than 30 doctors who have completed the program are now practicing in small communities statewide. By 2020, that will nearly double.

“I’ve become more aware of the financial, socioeconomic, the obstacles that are in place that are more than just medicine," added Metcalf. "They’re more than just learning the science behind treating patients. There are social factors that have to be worked with and managed, as well.”

Metcalf doesn’t know where he’ll plant those roots after his residency, but he is encouraged by the chance to help a community in need.

“Instead of having the attitude that these areas can’t be helped, to be proactive about it," said Metcalf. "And I think that that’s one of the benefits of this program.”

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