As one of the few rural medical schools in the country, the Geisel School of Medicine has long attracted and provided opportunities for people like Cheryl Seymour who want to care for patients living far from major cities. Today, Geisel students can choose from clerkships in multiple rural locales—from Tuba City, Ariz., to Alaskan villages to small towns in Maine—and take advantage of an array of experiences offered through the Rural Health Scholars (RHS) program.
Founded in 1997, RHS prepares medical students to be leaders in providing health care to rural and underserved populations.
The Mellam Foundation’s support has been critical in maintaining the work of Rural Health Scholars.
"The goal of the program is to intrigue and inspire students to one day make a difference in rural health care, where the needs are so great," says Cathleen Morrow, M.D., an associate professor of community and family medicine and director of the program from 2008 to 2012.
In recent years, the Mellam Family Foundation has played a vital role in sustaining and expanding the program. Founded in memory of Leo L. Mellam, who is credited with developing modern containerized freight transportation, the Foundation has been supporting rural health opportunities for Dartmouth medical students for several years. It first sponsored rural clerkships and then provided grants to RHS. The Foundation also gives to Dartmouth College to help fund undergraduate leave-term scientific research, and it supports many other programs nationwide in the areas of rural medicine, science, education, the environment, and social services.
"The Mellam Foundation's support has been critical in maintaining the work of Rural Health Scholars, providing mini-grants for students' outreach projects, helping with transportation costs to very remote sites, and assisting with the purchase of medical equipment for community health screenings," says Morrow.
Whether volunteering on a Native American reservation, participating in rural health seminars, or shadowing a physician in rural New England, Rural Health Scholars learn about and prepare for the challenges they will one day face practicing in underserved communities, far from the closest city.