When Janie Guice looks at the Mississippi Delta she sees a vast, flat flood plain, home to cotton fields and catfish farms, but she also sees desperate rural health problems and a deep shortage of doctors to deliver primary care to the region's residents.
Guice is the recruiter for the University of Mississippi's Rural Physician Scholarship Program, headquartered at the state's only academic medical center in the capital of Jackson. The state-funded program offers students a $30,000 scholarship that covers all the expenses of medical school, if they agree to go back into practice in a rural area for four years after they graduate. But there is a catch: Students must originally come from a small rural town far from health care providers.
The success of the four-year-old program, she says, depends largely on her ability to pick the right students.
"Basically I am looking for one of two personalities," says Guice (rhymes with nice.) "Either the maverick who is going to go to med school, and go back home and fix what is wrong with the health care delivery system. Or the missionary, the student who says to me 'I thought about going to seminary but I've always wanted to be a doctor.' To which I say, 'Have I got a mission for you. It's called Mississippi!'"
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