Medical School Spotlight: The Path to Serving the Underserved at VCU School of Medicine

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Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine's International/Inner City/Rural Preceptorship Program (I2CRP) brings together like-minded students who want to make an impact on underserved communities. Program Director Mary Lee Magee describes the success of one student who credits the I2CRP program with putting him on the path to treating patients in some of North Carolina's most impoverished counties.

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Photo Credit: VCU School of Medicine

For Richard “Rick” Moore II, MD, class of 2011, the decision to serve medically underserved populations was deeply rooted. His mother was a social worker, and stories about poverty and the struggles of others were an important part of how he saw the world from an early age. It was his desire to make a difference that eventually led him to medicine.

“I thought of the opportunity to be a physician as a way to make social justice a day-to-day part of my working life,” he said.

Entering the VCU School of Medicine and enrolling in the International/Inner City/Rural Preceptorship (I2CRP) Program helped him make that desire a reality.

The I2CRP program seeks to engage medical students early in their training to sustain their vision and drive to serve those in greatest need, while helping students translate these goals into long-term careers.

Today, Moore is a family practitioner with a federally qualified health center where he provides care to some of the most impoverished counties in North Carolina. In addition to providing primary care, he treats patients with HIV, hepatitis C, and substance use disorders. Through a partnership with the University of North Carolina, he trains primary care providers who practice in underserved settings throughout the state to care for patients with hepatitis C.

Prospective students apply to the I2CRP program during their first semester and participate in longitudinal programming throughout all four years of medical school, including mentoring, didactics, service learning, and clinical training in urban, rural, and international underserved settings.

During the first two years of medical school, I2CRP students learn about historical trends of poverty and connect with local service providers to gain a better understanding of the day-to-day lives of individuals who struggle to meet basic needs, such as housing, employment, food, and adequate health care.

Throughout clinical rotations, students train in diverse settings such as the Rural Health Group, the practice location of program alumnus Moore; Crossover Healthcare Ministry, a free clinic located in Richmond, Va. that serves low-income, uninsured patients, with a high percentage of documented and undocumented immigrants; or community-based Centro de Primer Nivel primary care center just outside of the city of Santiago in the Dominican Republic.

For Moore, the I2CRP program provided a practical framework around what he dreamt of achieving as a physician. “It helped provide a clearer path to how I could come to work in the settings where I hoped to work.”

Since the first graduating class in 2000, 77% of I2CRP graduates have entered residency training in primary care (family medicine, general internal medicine, general pediatrics, and medicine/pediatrics) or in National Health Service Corp priority programs (psychiatry and obstetrics and gynecology). Among program graduates who have completed residency training, 37% are currently practicing in medically underserved areas or health professional shortage areas.

I2CRP program graduates pursue many career trajectories to meaningfully serve underserved populations, including practicing in community settings, academic medicine, global medicine, scholarship and advocacy at the policy level. The accomplishments of program graduates such as Moore are both inspirational and reassuring as to what is within reach for the prospective medical student who is driven to address some of the most pressing health concerns of our society.

When asked what advice he would offer prospective students who seek to serve underserved populations, Moore emphasized the importance of exploration and mentorship. He encouraged students to seek out varied experiences to “cultivate a better understanding of the many different opportunities that will be available to you when making decisions about your future career.” He added that by participating in a program like I2CRP, “I was better able to understand how to structure future decisions in a way that would allow me to work on behalf of underserved patients.”

Article contributed by Mary Lee Magee, MS, assistant professor, Department of Family Medicine and Population Health, and director, International/Inner City/Rural Preceptorship Program, VCU School of Medicine 

Photo Credit: Dr. Moore received the Roanoke Valley Choice Award for “Best Doctor,” and Rural Health Group Inc., the clinic where he works, was recognized as “Best Doctor's Office” and “Best After Hours Clinic.” Members of the patient care team who are featured in the photo include (left to right): Richard A. Moore II, MD, panel manager Tiffany Ausby, LPN; practice manager Dawn Daly-Mack, RN, BSN; clinical assistant Taneka Cumbo, and case manager Ryan Wenger.

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