Health Team

Fellowship program brings doctors to underserved rural communities

Posted July 14, 2016 2:45 p.m. EDT
Updated July 15, 2016 1:10 p.m. EDT

— Large metropolitan counties have no shortage of doctors but only 12 percent of medical students are choosing to become primary care physicians and even fewer go on to practice in underserved communities.

A first of its kind fellowship program is now finding students who see their medical future in rural communities.

Natalie Malpass and Andrew Marburg are both pre-med graduates of undergraduate programs who hope to enter medical school. They’ll both be spending two years in fellowship training in a primary care clinic in Benson.

Other fellows are serving in 10 other underserved areas across the state. Their first two weeks were spent in the classroom at UNC Medical School. Only 13 students were chosen for the MedServe program out of 80 applicants.

“We though there needed to be more access to students like us who are service oriented and care about the issue of there not being enough rural doctors to actually get out into these communities and see that,” said Anne Steptoe, the co-founder of MedServe and a fourth year medical student at Brown University.

Steptoe and fellow fourth year medical student Patrick O’Shea are also MBA majors at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business. They co-founded MedServe as a way to fill desperate needs in rural areas. Success depends on learning under mentors like Dr. Eugene Maynard in Benson.

“The need is very great here. It’s very rewarding,” said Maynard. “I think out here, you have a chance to be a community leader.”

Maynard is excited that both fellows can help as Spanish translators and they both prefer small town life.

“I’m from Columbus County and one of my professional goals has always been to go back home,” said Malpass.

“You really feel a lot more connected. You see people you’re working with and you’re working for,” said Marburg.

The MedServe fellowship founders hope to expand the program to more areas of the state and to other states in the future.