Dr. John R. Wheat, professor of community and rural medicine at The University of Alabama College of Community Health Sciences and School of Medicine, recently received the Distinguished Educator Award from the National Rural Health Association.
Wheat was selected for this award because he designed, implemented and directs UA's Rural Health Leaders Pipeline. This pipeline is a multi-faceted sequence of programs that enrolls students from rural Alabama into studies that prepare them to become rural physicians or other health professionals.
The pipeline includes the Rural Health Scholars, the Rural Medical Scholars and the Minority Rural Health Scholars programs. These programs recruit students from among underserved rural populations, including a focus on minority populations in Alabama's Black Belt region; provide enrichment activities during high school and college, and administer a special track of entry and education in medical school, emphasizing agricultural and rural health leadership and family practice.
Each year about 25 high school Rural Health Scholars, 15 college-level Minority Rural Health Scholars, and 10 Rural Medical Scholars are added to these programs.
In support of the nomination, Gov. Bob Riley said in his letter of recommendation: "Dr. Wheat's leadership and expertise have helped the Commission to make a real difference in the lives of citizens in Alabama's Black Belt. From grassroots initiatives to health policy issues, Dr. Wheat is a true leader in our state and is a great spokesman for all rural citizens."
Wheat remains active in clinical practice and teaching in pre-professional, professional and postgraduate interdisciplinary health profession education in psychology, social work, nursing and medicine.
Wheat's academic interests revolve around vulnerable and underserved rural populations, e.g. preventive and agricultural medicine for the farming community; insurance and health care systems for uninsured rural children; and educational and community developments needed for rural practice.
The University of Alabama, a student-centered research university, is in the midst of planned, steady enrollment growth with a goal of reaching 28,000 students by 2010. This growth, which is positively impacting the campus and the state’s economy, is in keeping with UA’s vision to be the university of choice for the best and brightest students. UA, the
state’s flagship university, is an academic community united in its commitment to enhancing the quality of life for all Alabamians.