The available evidence indicates that the current curriculum does not adequate equip students for rural practice. The international literature shows that students regard rural placements more highly than urban ones in terms of educational benefit due to the number of patients they see; the wider range of experiences; continuity of care; and the scope provided by rural practice. Rural medicine is more multi-disciplinary, community based and more likely to involve participants in a wide range of community organizations. Rural-origin students are helped to connect with their own values and communities, and attitudes are shown to change irrespective of origin.
A portion of a Faculty R1.2m Atlantic Philanthropies 3-year grant dispersed to the PHCD in 2009 was utilized to encourage the recruitment of health sciences students from rural and underserved areas, support them to develop leadership skills, better prepare medical students for rural practice, and contribute overall to health equity.
The PHCD appointed a Rural Recruitment Officer who assisted with raising the profile of rural health amongst the students and Faculty; expose an increasing number of students to rural situations via the subsidy provided for 5th year rural electives; raise awareness amongst rural learners about health careers and processes to be followed to become health professionals in future; and expose students to leadership through workshops and practice whilst leading their student societies. As a result of the Recruitment Officer’s work in rural high schools around the country, the number of rural origin students who registered for 1st year in the faculty in 2013 was double that of previous years, around 17% of the total number.