JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – Getting doctors to set up their practice in rural Mississippi can be a real challenge.

In 2007 Mississippi lawmakers realized they had to get more primary care physicians to places like Carthage and Cornith and scores of communities in between. The Mississippi Rural Physician Scholarship Program was born. Now, more than 60 medical students and 9 dental students are receiving scholarships of $30,000 to $35,000 per year.

Wahnee Sherman is the Executive Director of the Mississippi Rural Physician and Dentist Scholarship Program.

She explains, “They have one year of service for each year that they receive a scholarship, (for example) for 4 years, then they have to go back and practice in that community for 4 years. but the vast majority of our students are going to stay in that community well after the time that they have finished their scholarship obligation.”

That’s because, in many cases, it’s where they’re from.

Dr. Jonathan Buchanan says, “I was the first physician to come back to Carthage in 25 years.”

Success stories like that require time and foresight. The recruitment process starts Spring Semester, sophomore year.

Wahnee explains, “We provide impact preparation materials for them. We expose them more to medicine and help them understand what it’s like to be a medical student.”

Candidates need good grades and a good work ethic. Being from a small town doesn’t hurt either.

Wahnee says, “I I think we have someone from every single community college and every 4 year institution and most of the private institutions in our state, that are part of program.”

It’s a great way for our newest physicians to save 6 figures in student loans, and focus on what’s really important.

Dr. Buchanan concludes, “(It) Gives you the ability to return to a rural community, and just be a pillar in the community, just be on the front lines of improving health care in Mississippi.”

The scholarships are only for primary care physicians or dentists. They typically cover a little more than half of the cost of attendance. You can find out more at umc.edu.