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UMMC sees impact of $7.6M grant that places doctors in rural areas

Updated: May. 7, 2021 at 1:24 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - The University of Mississippi Medical Center’s School of Medicine is starting to see the effects of a multi-million dollar grant on small communities will little access to quality healthcare.

July 2020, the Health Resources and Services Administration awarded UMMC School of Medicine $1.9 million a year, worth at least $7.6 million, not including a $5 million supplement the school is eligible for at the end of the first year.

The grant is called IMPACT, the RACE Rural Track Program, and the goal is to expose new medical students to primary care in medically underserved communities in rural Mississippi.

“This is an opportunity to make a huge difference,” said Jackson-Williams, vice dean for medical education and professor of emergency medicine at UMMC. “It can have a lasting impact on health care in this state. It allows us to do the work we’ve been talking about a long time.”

The grant covers funding for more medical students to get clinical training in rural areas. UMMC says it also improves the relationship between the school and rural hospitals and residency programs. For example, medical students can now spend the lion share of their clinical medical training in a rural setting such as UMMC Grenada or at Magnolia Regional Hospital in Corinth.

“Already, some students who have worked in rural hospital systems have signed contracts with them,” said Dr. Sheree Melton, assistant professor of family medicine and the clerkship director for the Department of Family Medicine at UMMC. “They’ve agreed to come back there and practice for a certain number of years once they’ve finished their residency training. They already have a job before they graduate from medical school.”

More than half of Mississippi’s residents live in rural areas, the HRSA says, which is one reason the federal agency says they chose UMMC.

HRSA says 80 of Mississippi’s 82 counties as medically underserved, and 94 percent of the counties as areas with shortages of primary care physicians who practice family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics-gynecology, geriatrics, and more.

Weston Eldridge, a fourth-year medical student, plans to practice medicine in Winston County, an area where doctors are needed the most.

“I signed a contract,” Eldrige said. “We did wellness exams at this elementary school – a lot of bellyaches and earaches,” Eldridge said. “Sometimes it was just little children who needed to be loved on. I had such a great day.”

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