RMED Student Receives Grant Funding to Conduct Microresearch Project on Rural Surgery Workforce

Jarod Shelton, a fourth-year University of Illinois College of Medicine Rockford medical student in the Rural Medical Education (RMED) Program, recently received grant funding from Rural Primary care, Research, Education, and Practice (PREP) for a microresearch project focused on the rural surgery workforce. Shelton’s project is titled Rural Surgery Workforce Assessment: A Survey of Midwestern States and he plans to discover common issues of recruitment and retention of rural general surgeons and the perceived characteristics of rural general surgeons that result in rural practice. Martin MacDowell, DrPH, serves as faculty advisor for the project.

The steady decline of rural general surgeons has profound implications on the future health status of rural populations and immediate interventions are needed to ameliorate the impending healthcare burden. Identifying the personal characteristics, reasons for practice location and other extrinsic factors may provide evidence for developing measures that can be used to recruit and retain medical students and/or residents that display an interest in rural general surgery.

The objective of this study will be to examine the extent and impact of general surgeon shortages in rural healthcare institutions. In this study, rurality will be classified using the United States Department of Agriculture rural-urban commuting area (RUCA) codes. Information pertaining to obstacles of recruitment and retainment will be assessed. Other factors related to the population’s socioeconomic limitations, health insurance status and unique complications that may affect their ability to obtain medical services will be evaluated. Collectively, the survey will be used to appraise how rural communities can increase recruitment and retention of general surgeons from the perspective of healthcare executives directly involved in the delicate process.