From left: Drs. Allen Perkins, Jacquelyn Gaffney and Heather Cannon
Dr. Allen Perkins, professor and chair of family medicine at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine, has been awarded two grants by the Alabama Family Practice Rural Health Board to help encourage medical students to practice family medicine in rural areas of Alabama.
Dr. Perkins, who serves as president of the Alabama Rural Health Association, said the ongoing support to encourage students to choose family medicine and to practice in rural Alabama points to our institutional success in this area.
“Our efforts are to support a care system for people in rural areas, and we are ultimately looking at how to better deliver care using limited resources,” Dr. Perkins said. “We face a challenge because a large section of the state of Alabama has a small number of providers, and there are simply not enough primary care residency slots to meet the increased need. However, USA has a very good reputation for putting students in medically underserved areas.”
Funds provided in the first grant, totaling $30,000, will go toward preparing graduates for practice in rural Alabama by supporting remote conferencing for all resident physicians, particularly those on rural and community rotations.
The second grant, totaling $32,750, will also prepare graduates for rural practice. The funds will support professional development and allow for interaction with leaders in family medicine, as well as provide funding for practice management seminars and a family medicine interest group.
According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, the number of medical school students in the United States going into primary care has dropped nearly 50 percent in the last 10 years.
“A large number of medical students are avoiding primary care,” said Dr. Michael McBrearty, chairman of the Alabama Family Practice Rural Health Board. “Our goal is to encourage medical students to practice family medicine and to practice it in rural areas after they complete medical school.”
“It is important to further family medicine in the state because of the nationwide shortage of primary care physicians,” Dr. McBrearty said. “Family medicine is the main portal of entry for medical care for most people.”
The Alabama Family Practice Rural Health Board was created in 1990 as a result of a task force on rural health that began in 1989. The board’s mission is to help facilitate family medicine education in Alabama by encouraging high school and college students to pursue an education in rural family medicine.
Dr. Perkins has been a member of the USA College of Medicine faculty for approximately 17 years. During this time, he has been involved in many educational and clinical facets of the USA Health System, including serving as director of the family medicine residency program and as medical director for the USA Family Medical Center. He is a member of the Society of Teachers of Family Medicine, the Association of Family Practice Program Directors, American Academy of Family Physicians and the Alabama Academy of Family Physicians.