Why is the RUUTE program important to the University of Utah School of Medicine?
As University of Utah President Ruth Watkins states, the University is not only of Utah, but for Utah. By preparing students with an excellent education, students are then prepared to excel in the workforce, thus meeting the needs of Utah communities.
Similarly, Dr. Michael Good, the Senior Vice President for Health Sciences, shares that the University of Utah emphasizes value and quality, resulting in talented faculty, staff, and students who will continue to transform healthcare and medicine.
In Utah, 15% of all Utahans live in rural areas, while only 7.9% of physicians practice in rural locations. Utah is also a state that is continually growing. Utah’s current population exceeds over 3,000,000 and has the highest rate of growth in the entire country, at 2.03%. With a high rate of growth and a disproportionate distribution of providers, an average of 19 new physicians per year will need to replace retiring providers in rural/underserved areas to ensure that healthcare resources are distributed adequately.1
Read more of RUUTE's efforts to positively impact the Utah community in the 2020 University of Utah Health's Report To Our Community 2020
Our medical students come from all areas of Utah, ranging from Washington County to Cache County, and all areas in between. Diversity in medical student educational experience not only enhances their learning, but benefits the entire state by creating physicians who provide medical services, enhance community resources, and increase economic growth.
Research indicates that both nature (i.e., rural upbringing) and nurture (i.e., rural-focused medical education) are important for increasing the number of practicing rural providers.2 For example, a student from a rural area who receives multiple years of rural medical training would be 10 times more likely to practice in a rural setting.
Specifically for the RUUTE program, an intensive third-year rural curriculum and community preceptorships have been shown to increase the rural recruitment rate by 59%. Similarly, educators and experts from the National Rural Health Association, have identified five key program elements for rural program success; "admitting the right student, included curricula elements that occur and are required in rural training sites, establish a cadre of rural physicians who are dedicated to education of their successors, secure financial and relational support for the program, and evaluate program progress".3 All of which are being done through the RUUTE program.
Additionally, RUUTE has increased k-12 outreach efforts in rural and underserved communities throughout Utah. RUUTE initiatives such as the Utah Rural Outreach Program (UROP) and Little RUUTE’s specifically target k-12 students to increase awareness and interest in pursuing a healthcare career. RUUTE has also increased opportunities for current college students who are either from a rural or underserved community or attend a college in a rural and underserved community through our Undergraduate Ambassador Program and Summer Undergraduate Research Experience to help increase recruitment of students from these communities. To view RUUTE outreach efforts throughout Utah please see the map below.
- Utah Medical Education Council. Utah’s Physician Workforce – 2016: A study on the supply and distribution of physicians in Utah.
- Brookes RG, Walsh M, Mardon RE, Lewis M, Clawson A. The Roles Of Nature And Nurture In The Recruitment And Retention Of Primary Care Physicians In Rural Areas: A Review Of The Literature. Academic Medicine 2002; 77(8): 790-798.
- Downey LH, Wheat JR, Leeper JD, Florence JA, Boulger JG, Hunsaker ML. Undergraduate rural medical education program development: focus group consultation with the NRHA Rural Medical Educators Group. J Rural Health. 2011;27(2):230-238. doi:10.1111/j.1748-0361.2010.00334.x