A group photo of the Rural Medical Scholars

11 Alabamians Chosen for Nationally Recognized Rural Medical Program

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – The University of Alabama’s Rural Medical Scholars Program recently accepted 11 students from around the state studying to become physicians with plans to practice in rural Alabama communities.

The Rural Medical Scholars Program, part of the UA College of Community Health Sciences, is a five-year medical education program that leads to obtaining a medical degree. The program includes a year of study, after students receive their undergraduate degree, and leads to a master’s degree in rural and community health and early admission to the UA School of Medicine.

“Founded in 1996, the Rural Medical Scholars Program is a national leader in rural medical education,” said Dr. Drake Lavender, director of Rural Programs. “Our mission is to recruit and train primary care physicians to care for patients in the rural underserved areas of Alabama.

“With 54% of our graduates going into rural practice upon completion of their training, our success rates are as high as any program in the U.S., but we have much more work to do to eliminate the shortage of primary care doctors in our rural communities.”

The Rural Medical Scholars Program is exclusively for rural Alabama students who want to become physicians and practice in rural communities. It has been cited nationally as a model initiative.

The 2022-23 class includes Jackson Byrd, of Fitzpatrick; Aubrey Cox, of Winfield; Alexis Hyde, of Green Hill; Bryce Jeffrey, of Green Hill; Lili Kaplan, of Anniston; Chase Layton, of Enterprise; Sam Penque, of Trussville; Erin Roberts, of Coaling; Jailyn Shepard, of Selma; Lily Wiedmer, of Anniston; and Jenna Wood, of Winfield.

Students spend their first two years of medical school at the School of Medicine’s main campus in Birmingham and return to CCHS for their third and fourth years of medical school – the clinical training years.

“We are excited to welcome 11 students into our program this year from rural areas all over our state,” said Lavender. “They come to us with diverse backgrounds and received their education from many different colleges, but all have a common dream: to be a doctor in rural Alabama. We look forward to helping them along their journey to fulfill that dream.”

A number of current CCHS faculty are graduates of the Rural Medical Scholars Program, including Lavender, an assistant professor of family, internal and rural medicine.


Bryant Welbourne, UA Strategic Communications, bryant.welbourne@ua.edu, 205-348-8325


Kandis Snyder, UA College of Community Health Sciences, kasnyder2@ua.edu