COSAM News Articles 2023 August Rural medicine students begin journey to become physicians and give back to residents of Alabama

Rural medicine students begin journey to become physicians and give back to residents of Alabama

Published: 08/15/2023

By: Maria Gebhardt

Students in the 2023–2024 Rural Medicine Program (RMP) incoming class at Auburn University were celebrated on August 9, 2023, with a ceremony where they officially received their white coats and stethoscopes.

The 2023– 023 RMP students are from throughout the state:

  • Tessa Davison, Grand Bay, Alabama
  • Jordan Dozier, Thomasville, Alabama
  • Cody Durham, Fackler, Alabama
  • Carmen Hadder, Parrish, Alabama
  • Lauren McLeod, Waverly, Alabama
  • Sadie Ross, Sardis City, Alabama
  • Jacob Statom, Tuscumbia, Alabama
  • Olivia Whitaker, New Hope, Alabama

RMP aims to prepare doctors that focus on family medicine in rural areas. They will be working in the state of Alabama helping families that may not easily have access to healthcare.

“The Rural Medicine Program gives students an edge with clinical experience to examine patients before they even begin medical school,” said John Irle, M.D., director of the Rural Medicine Program at the University of Alabama (UAB) Heersink School of Medicine, Huntsville Regional Medical Campus. “Students have had an opportunity to get support in an array of areas from mentoring to how to read reports to advice for planning for financial expenses.”

The program has helped students prepare for medical school since 2006.

“We are here to do everything we can to help you succeed,” said David Bramm, M.D., associate professor, family medicine, University of Alabama (UAB) School of Medicine, Huntsville Regional Medical Campus. “This program has a 94.7 percent graduation rate and offers help for students at every step to complete medical school and residency programs.”

At the event, students were given their white coats and stethoscopes with their families in attendance.

“Tonight, this ceremony signifies the beginning of your journey in becoming a physician,” said Lanita Carter, director, medical education and student services, University of Alabama (UAB) School of Medicine, Huntsville Regional Medical Campus. “We are pleased to recognize these students as they start this exceptional program.”

The College of Sciences and Mathematics (COSAM) at Auburn University has supported RMP students with their preparation for medical school by providing rigorous courses in biological sciences, biochemistry, and laboratory sciences.

“COSAM has more than a 30-year history of developing future physicians and we are proud to support this 18th cohort of Rural Medicine Program students at Auburn University,” said Edward Thomas Jr., dean, COSAM.

RMP has made a significant difference in creating a pipeline of doctors that help residents of small towns throughout the state.

“In 1921, President Duncan at Auburn University created the Alabama Farmers Federation,” said Paul Pinyan, executive director, Alabama Farmers Federation. “And tonight, we will be here to present the ALFA Book Scholarship to these students.”

Students then heard why tonight’s ceremony was so important to these students.

“The white coat you will put on tonight is a highly recognized and powerful symbol of medicine,” said Michael Roberts, M.D., hospital medical director at East Alabama Medical Center. “The reason the white coat is so important is that it helps us see the patient as a person, and tonight you are receiving your white coat.”

Keith Bufford, M.D., medical director, Rural Medicine Program, shared why the RMP makes a difference to future physicians.

“The two most important parts of this profession are listening and touching,” he said. “You convey information when you are with your patient, and you connect with patients when you use your stethoscope.”

Two former Auburn graduates and members of the RMP class of 2013-2014 attended the event and gave their personal insights with the current students after the event.

William Griffin, M.D., ’13, a graduate from Auburn University with an undergraduate degree in biomedical sciences, participated in RMP in 2013-2014. He then graduated from UAB School of Medicine in 2018. He is now an internal medicine physician in Opelika.

“This program was a stepping stone and firm foundation for me to go into medical school strong,” he shared. “You gain hands-on experience interacting with patients and preparing for your future career.”

Tim Littmann, M.D., ’11, ‘14 is currently a doctor at a 20-bed hospital in Dadeville. He graduated from Auburn in 2011 with an undergraduate degree in zoology and then in 2014 with a second undergraduate degree in molecular biology. He participated in RMP in 2013-2014 and graduated from UAB School of Medicine in 2018.

“What I do every single day, using the stethoscope and listening gives me the opportunity to directly connect with my patients,” he explained. “What I learned in RMP, I will use for the next 40 years and so will these students as they finish their journeys on the path to becoming successful and caring physicians!”

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