June 30, 2016

Huntsville Rural Pre-medical Internship program gives meaningful shadowing experience

Written by
This summer, the Huntsville Rural Pre-medical Internship program will give 15 undergraduate students the opportunity to see a full spectrum of how family medicine and other primary care doctors work with patients.

To be accepted into the program, applicants must be Alabama residents who have completed at least their sophomore year in college, and who spent their childhood in rural Alabama. The ideal candidates are pre-medical students who have a career goal of returning to their home communities as primary care physicians.

Marshall Med Ctr 2016Interns spend eight weeks shadowing physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, medical residents and medical students; being in out-patient clinics; going on hospital rounds; and observing doctors both in Huntsville and in their own rural hometowns.

“By the end of the summer, this will be approximately 240 hours of shadowing,” said Paula Clawson, program administrator. “Medical schools’ admissions committees want applicants to have significant hours of shadowing, and this is a very strong program for that.”

The extensive hours of shadowing allow the interns to build relationships with the people they are shadowing, gaining not only experience, but advice as well.

“The relationships that I have built with everyone at UAB Huntsville are, by far, the most valuable resources that the program has afforded me,” said Corey Key, current intern with the program. “Everyone that I have come across is eager to help — offering any and all advice they have to help me reach the ultimate goal of becoming a practicing physician in rural Alabama.”

Key, a senior at Alabama A&M University, hopes to one day return to his hometown of Courtland, Ala. as a primary care physician, influencing the community to become more health-conscious and giving back to the very place which helped cultivate who he is today.

For many interns, the exposure they are given at this early stage helps them determine what type of medical career they want.

“The hours spent in the hospital and in clinic, as well as the general overview of medicine that the internship offered, were helpful in solidifying my decision to become a physician”, said Claire Cordes, a second-year UAB medical student from Cullman who was a 2014 pre-medical intern.

Since the program’s start in 1992, 64 percent of the students who participated in the internship were later accepted into medical school, and another 12 percent went on to medical fields such as dentistry, pharmacy and nursing.  

“This program has already, in so many ways, given me the confidence, motivation and mentorship that I believe is necessary to pursue my dream of practicing medicine one day,” Key said.