4% of medical students come from rural areas, study finds

Students from rural areas are grossly underrepresented in medical schools, according to a study published in Health Affairs.

Researchers assessed geographic trends in medical students and applicants over the last 15 years. They identified students from rural communities by using the Rural-Urban Continuum Codes, a federal classification system that distinguishes between urban and nonmetropolitan counties, according to Medscape.

They found individuals from rural areas accounted for just 4.3 percent of all first-year medical students in 2017. Students in racial/ethnic minority groups who came from rural communities represented just 0.5 percent of medical students.

Past research has shown medical students who grew up in rural areas are more likely to practice medicine in these communities. The continued underrepresentation of these students could further worsen the care gaps and physician shortages already present in rural areas, researchers noted.

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