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Tribal, Rural, and Underserved Medicine (TRUE Program)

Welcome to the Tribal, Rural & Underserved Education Program (TRUE) at the University of Utah School of Medicine. Our office serves as a comprehensive resource to meet the education needs of medical students who are interested in nurturing and growing the knowledge, attitudes and skills necessary of physicians who care for patients from tribal, rural and medically-underserved communities.  Although our premiere program is the Graduate Certificate in Tribal, Rural & Underserved Medicine (link to grad cert page), we offer an array of services and education activities to prepare and encourage medical students, including:

  • mentorship and career planning
  • a variety of for-credit elective courses (link)
  • community immersion experiences
  • Other services?

About Us

TRUE Program Faculty & Staff (heading; hoping to make this page similar to this format; https://medicine.utah.edu/about/deans.php

Dr. David Sandweiss, Director, TRUE Program

Dr. Ty Dickerson, Assistant Director, TRUE Program

Olivia Spencer, TRUE Program Coordinator

Courses Offered

MD ID 6550: Introduction to Population Health in Rural United States (Prerequisite Course: None)

Developing a broad understanding of rural populations and their health-related issues, challenges and determinants is important for all physicians but especially for those who intend to enter a rural or remote practice. Rural and remote medical practice encompasses a broader and deeper skill set from many specialties because rural practitioners must respond to a wide range of serious medical conditions. Furthermore, rural physicians are more likely than their urban peers to take on local leadership roles related to health and health care and thus require a diverse professional skill set. By participating in this course, medical students examine rural populations through the lens of public health to build a foundation of knowledge, attitudes and attributes that are essential for medical students to contextualize subsequent and more advanced rural health education.


MD ID 6555: Rural, Tribal, and Underserved Health Care Systems, Delivery, and Resources (Prerequisite Course: None)

Developing a broad understanding of rural populations and their health-related issues, challenges and determinants is important for all physicians but is especially needed for those who intend to enter a rural or underserved practice. Designed to complement MDID 6500 – Introduction to Population Health in the Rural United States, this course will expound upon the foundation of knowledge, attitudes and opinions that are essential to contextualize subsequent and more advanced rural health education.


MDID XXXX: TRUE Immersion Summer Community Field Experience (Prerequisite Course: None)

Course description pending


MD ID 6650: Applied Community Health and Leadership in Rural, Tribal and Underserved Settings (Prerequisite Course: None)

Physicians in rural, remote or medically underserved communities depend on a diverse skill set that often goes well beyond clinical care. In small or resource limited communities, physicians are often called upon to lead efforts related to community health assessments and improvement, clinical care quality assurance and improvement, public health promotion and education, monitoring and evaluation of health programs and local non-profit or voluntary organizational missions. Through a mixture of online learning, didactic coursework and mentorship, students who complete this course will gain skills in community and organizational leadership, developing and improving health interventions and programs and planning a capstone community-oriented health improvement (COHI) project that will be implemented during the MS4 year. For those students working towards completing the Graduate Certificate in Rural & Underserved Medicine (GCRUM), this is a required course to be completed during MS2.  However, this course, is open to all medical students (MS 1-4) interested in broadening their knowledge of rural and underserved community health and leadership, and can be taken on its own without prerequisites.  It complements the 1st year courses, MDID 6550 (Introduction to Population Health in the Rural United States) and MDID 6555 (Rural Health Care Systems, Delivery & Resources). 


MDID 6002: Virtual Care - Telemedicine for Future Providers (Prerequisite Course: None)

Telehealth is a rapidly expanding technology that has been adopted by various medical professionals as a new means of care delivery. The utilization of telemedicine has ranged from performing standard office visits to delivering care to rural or underserved areas with less access to specialty care. With the recent COVID pandemic, it has also become a staple for emergency preparedness and a solution for continued care practices. However, many medical schools lack formal training of their students in how to conduct these visits. There is also a lack of awareness in how this technology is used within different subspecialties. This course is available to all medical students with the primary focus being rising MS3 medical students.


PBHLT 6640: Health Disparities and Public Health (Prerequisite Course: None)

This course focuses on the impact of health disparities on public health.  Disparities related to all facets of life can affect health status and health behaviors.  Students will learn to identify connections between individual- and community-level health disparities and community health.  This course is being offered through the Division of Public Health, and provides a foundational education experience in a topic that is germane to all health care profession students.  It is being offered as a medical student elective and is a requirement for those medical students completing the Graduate Certificate in Rural and Underserved Medicine (GCRUM). This course addresses the often spoken of yet insufficiently addressed area of health disparities, a broad field that touches almost every American across their life span.  As the present course concentrates on the provision of a comprehensive overview, interested students will be able to continue to identify the underpinnings of inequity in the population of their choice, when a need for focus arises in their academic endeavors. Several key philosophies about health, and its fundamental place in achieving human potential, guide this course:

  • First, health can only be fully understood in an ecologic context when biologic psychological, social, cultural, economic political and social perspectives are integrated
  • Second, disparities give us important snapshots that can shape needed modification and leadership gaps as they influence all three functions of public health: assessment, policy development and assurance of health services.
  • Third, medical students interested in careers in rural and underived medicine and in health promotion and disease prevention within rural and underserved communities must make a commitment to address health disparities in their day-to-day practice of medicine. Steps to be taken will be addressed in the class, but a strong will to highlight and face overburden of need will be required.


MDID 6850: Community-Oriented Health Improvement Capstone Project (Prerequisite Course: MDID 6650)

UUSOM students pursuing a Graduate Certificate in Rural and Underserved Medicine (GCRUM) must complete a Community-Oriented Health Improvement (COHI) Capstone Project during a 3rd or 4th year elective to earn the Graduate Certificate.  This mentored 4-credit elective, along with the rural, underserved and community health prerequisite courses (MD ID 6550, 6555, 6660, and 6665), will provide the foundational principals and experiential support needed to successful complete this capstone. With assistance from the Course Directors, students will identify a mentor with knowledge and experience in community health collaboration and quality improvement efforts.  Identifying a mentor can begin as early as MS1 – the sooner this process begins, the greater the opportunity to consider the many options available across the University and within the community.  Faculty leads in rural and underserved medicine will assist students in identifying a COHI-project mentor, who may be a faculty member from any number of Schools or Colleges across UU (School of Medicine, School of Dentistry, College of Nursing, College of Pharmacy, College of Health, College of Social Work, College of Education), or a partner in community health outside UU (ie Utah Department of Health, Utah Department of Human Services, Utah Department of Workforce Services).

Contact Us

Dave Sandweiss, TRUE Medicine Program Director

Olivia Spencer, Pre-Clinical Coordinator

Ty Dickerson, HRSA Program Director

Shelley Gabriel, HRSA Project Director

Edromar Undag, Administrative Assistant


  • University Of Utah School Of Medicine
  • Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) - Bureau of Health Workforce

This website is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of an award totaling $7 million with 13.6% financed with non-governmental sources. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by HRSA, HHS, or the U.S. Government.