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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 will initiate 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 includes BLS certification, the basics of patient interviewing, conducting physical exams, suturing, starting IVs, intubation and various injection techniques.

Field Trips

During the internship students have the opportunity to go on several field trips throughout North Alabama, including:

  • Red Bay: Guided tour of the Tiffin Motor Homes Plant, which produces recreational vehicles, allows students an inside view of occupational and industrial medicine in a rural town. Red Bay Hospital hosts lunch with informative talks by the administration, hospital staff and helicopter evacuation services plus a tour of the hospital facilities. 
  • Russellville: While touring the Pilgrim's Pride chicken processing plant, students are able to observe the working conditions and potential accident risks at this major employment center. 
  • Scottsboro: Located in a rural setting, Highlands Medical Center offers a wide array of services including rehabilitation, endoscopy, obstetrics, general surgery and occupational medicine. An in-depth tour of the various hospital departments shows how family physicians use all of these services to provide exemplary health care in a rural area.

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 2022 Rural Pre-Medical Internship is June 6 – July 22 in Huntsville; and May 30 – July 15 in Tuscaloosa.
The application period is Nov. 29, 2021 through Jan. 31, 2022.

To qualify for this program, applicants should:

  • Have completed at least 4 semesters of 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
  • 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.