Medical students who are interested in family medicine, primary care, or rural medicine specialties are strongly encouraged to apply to the Rural Physician Associate Program. Students from both the Twin Cities and Duluth campuses may apply.


RPAP Student with ChartRPAP is a unique opportunity in clinical training wherein third-year medical students live and train for nine months in non-metropolitan communities under the supervision of preceptors who are family physicians. These preceptors mentor students in the professional and personal aspects of being a physician.

RPAP students learn clinical medicine, procedures, community health, and the business of medicine. They experience the full spectrum of rural medical care as they follow patients and their families through a disease process or pregnancy.

Students see patients in clinic, hospital, emergency room, nursing homes, hospice, at home, and in the community. Each student is the only student in a community and therefore has a greater opportunity to get hands-on experience in a variety of procedures and specialties.

RPAP was established in 1971 to encourage students to practice in rural areas throughout Minnesota. Over 1,500 students have participated in the program, and two out of three former students practice in Minnesota, over 40% practice in rural locations, and 75% are in primary care.


Over 110 Minnesota communities with populations ranging from 350 to 30,000 have been teaching sites. Practices vary from small family medicine clinics to large multi-specialty outpatient centers. Hospitals range in size from 15 to 140 beds. A majority of sites have at least one RPAP alum.


RPAP gives students a strong foundation in clinical and communication skills and a confident professional approach. Students develop trusting and respectful relationships with physicians, clinic and hospital staff, and patients. The length of the experience allows time for students to become involved in the business of providing health care services as well as in community health education.

The RPAP experience brings to life the American College of Graduate Medical Education’s competencies in patient care, medical knowledge, communication skills, professionalism, practice-based learning, and systems-based health care.

RPAP students learn more than just rural medicine. They and their families experience all aspects of rural community life by living in their host towns during the training period. Students become part of the community by joining local sport teams, drama clubs, bands, churches, and civic groups. Many lifelong friendships have been formed through students' involvement in the host communities.

Minnesota's rural lakes and forests offer ample opportunity for RPAP students to pursue fishing, cross-country skiing, camping, and other outdoor activities during their free time.