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Former NJCAA Lea Plarski Award Winner Chosen for 2012-13 Alabama Rural Medical Scholar
 January 2, 2013

From Bevil State Community College Alumni Relations Office

Theresa Berry of Berry was chosen as a 2012-13 University of Alabama Rural Medical Scholar and plans to become a rural Alabama physician

The Rural Medical Scholars Program (RMSP), which has been cited nationally as a model program for educating rural physicians, is a five-year medical education program for rural Alabama students leading to the M.D. degree.

National recognition of the success of the RMSP has helped to lift The University of Alabama School of Medicine into a number 12 ranking among the Top Rural Medicine programs named by U.S. News and World Report to their list of  America s Best Graduate Schools, 2013.

Theresa is the daughter of Odell and Mary Berry and was the 2002 salutatorian of Berry High School in Berry. In high school, Theresa was active in extracurricular activities and participated in the Medical Explorer Program at Fayette Medical Center. She attended the Rural Health Scholars Program and the Rural Sciences Scholars Program at The University of Alabama during the summer before her senior year of high school.

Theresa attended Bevill State Community College in Fayette on a volleyball scholarship and graduated magna cum laude, earning an A.S. in biology with a focus in pre-medical studies.

At Bevill State, Theresa received numerous awards and honors including the National and Collegiate Minority Leadership Award, membership in Phi Theta Kappa National Honor Society, the 2004 Lea Plarski Student Athlete of the Year Award (given by the National Junior College Athletic Association to the student-athlete who best exemplifies sportsmanship, leadership, community service and academic excellence, as well as athletic achievement), All-American Scholar and All-Alabama Academic Team.

Theresa accepted an athletic scholarship and transferred to Faulkner University in Montgomery, where she graduated cum laude with a bachelor s of science degree in biology. An All-American Scholar at Faulkner and member of the Southern States Athletic Conference All-Academic Team, Theresa was a member of the university volleyball team and the Alpha Delta Psi social club. She also participated in community service projects, working with youth, needy families, and home maintenance for the elderly.

Following graduation from Faulkner University and a mission trip to Aberdeen, Scotland, Theresa served as the assistant volleyball coach at Faulkner for two years. During this time she created the Playing for a Cure campaign to benefit breast cancer research and awareness.

In 2010, Theresa was inducted into the Fayette County Sports Hall of Fame. She has been employed by Fayette Medical Center in Fayette and The University of Alabama as a research assistant for the Hale County Health Development Partnership. Theresa is presently devoting full time to her graduate studies prior to entering medical school. Theresa plans to return to Fayette County and open a pediatric practice. Her desire to practice medicine has been cultivated and reinforced by her longtime mentor Dr. Jon Sanford of Fayette.

Selection for the Rural Medical Scholars Program is based on a competitive application process open only to students from rural Alabama who wish to become rural physicians. RMSP includes a year of study leading to the master s degree in Rural Community Health and provides early admission to the University of Alabama School of Medicine in Birmingham.

Approximately 10 students per year are accepted into the five-year program, in which students can earn a master s degree [or complete their senior undergraduate year] during the first year of the program at The University of Alabama. RMSP provides training with rural preceptors, agromedicine experiences, and courses related to rural community health during the initial year at UA s College of Community Health Sciences (CCHS), a branch campus of the UA School of Medicine. Rural Medical Scholars then matriculate at the University of Alabama School of Medicine (UASOM)† in Birmingham for the first two years of medical school the basic sciences; they return to CCHS for the final two years of medical school (clinical training, including two months of family medicine and rural community medicine in a rural setting). Graduate students and incoming senior undergraduates from rural Alabama communities are eligible to apply to RMSP.

The Rural Medical Scholars Program admitted the first class in 1996.† Now in its 17th year, the UA Rural Medical Scholars Program has admitted 175 rural Alabama students from 52 of the state s 67 counties.† It takes a minimum of seven years for RMS students to complete medical school and residency to become primary care physicians, so many RMSs are still in training. One hundred of those who have entered medical school have had time to graduate.

While fewer medical students nationally are choosing primary care practices, especially in rural areas, the numbers are different for Rural Medical Scholars: Statistics on RMS graduates show that 63 percent have chosen to practice primary care, 50 percent in Family Medicine.Of those completing residencies, 89 percent practice in the state and 54 percent practice in rural Alabama, compared to 7 percent of their peers in medical school.

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