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The Rural Pre-Medical Internship (RPI) provides in-depth experiences for students interested in attending medical school to become family physicians in rural areas of our state. The various activities add up to a fantastic summer of learning, understanding and fun.

The internship has run continuously at the Huntsville Regional Medical Campus since 1992. In 2022, the Tuscaloosa Regional Medical Campus, which is operated by The University of Alabama College of Community Health Sciences, initiated its first RPI. Only one application needs to be submitted even if a student is interested in both campuses.

The internship program runs for seven weeks, beginning each year in late May or early June, and students get more than 150 hours of primary care shadowing. Students live in provided housing at the branch campus for the first month and then live at home for the second part of the program.


After initial orientation sessions to familiarize themselves with the campus and the basics of conducting physical exams and taking patient histories, students begin shadowing in different medical settings. Inpatient shadowing is done at affiliated hospitals and outpatient shadowing is done in the clinics at each campus. Shadowing can include interaction with medical staff, students and residents in Family Medicine, Internal Medicine and Pediatrics.

An important aspect of the internship is the daily lunch lecture series which cover a wide range of issues to broaden the students’ understanding of medicine.

Simulation Experiences

Hands-on learning could include BLS certification, the basics of patient interviewing, conducting physical exams, suturing, starting IVs, intubation and injection techniques.

Field Trips

During the internship students have the opportunity to go on several field trips, which could include:

  • Red Bay: Guided tour of the Tiffin Motor Homes Plant, provides an inside view of occupational and industrial medicine in a rural town. A tour of Red Bay Hospital showcases the variety of services available in small rural hospitals.
  • Russellville or Gordo: While touring a chicken processing plant or chicken hatchery, students observe the working conditions and potential accident risks at a small town’s major employment center.
  • Scottsboro: Tour Highlands Medical Center to learn how family physicians in a rural area have access to rehabilitation services, endoscopy, obstetrics, general surgery and occupational medicine.
  • Greensboro: Project Horseshoe Farm shows students how a volunteer-driven organization can support children, senior citizens, adults with mental illnesses in rural Alabama.RPI Huntsville 2023 1

Rural Clinics

A unique aspect of the internship is the two-week period of shadowing a physician near the students’ hometown. This allows them to observe not only the practice, but also the lifestyle of a rural physician. Often long-lasting relationships develop with the local physicians.

Poster Presentation  

Students are divided into groups to prepare PowerPoint and poster displays on a general health or wellness topic, and they present their presentations to an audience of local healthcare professionals on the last day of the internship.

Application & Selection Criteria

The 2024 Rural Pre-Medical Internship is May 28 – July 12 in Huntsville, and May 26 – July 12 in Tuscaloosa.
The application period is Nov. 27, 2023 through Feb. 2, 2024.

To qualify for this program, applicants should:

  • Have completed at least 4 semesters of post-high school college coursework
  • Have an overall GPA of 3.2 or higher
  • Have an ACT of 22 or higher; or an MCAT of 492 or higher; or SAT scores higher than 1200. If you do not have any of these scores, your science/math GPA will be given stronger consideration.
  • Be residents of Alabama. Strong preference is given to students from rural communities. Rural Alabama residents attending out-of-state schools are welcome.
  • Proof of up-to-date TB PPD, and health insurance is required.
  • COVID-19 vaccination is not required, but students may miss some experiences if the assigned facility/physician requires the vaccine.


For more information on the Tuscaloosa Rural Programs Internship experience, visit the CCHS website.

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