History of RPAP

RPAP Staff Photo 1985

RPAP Staff 1985 (L-R): Janice Knapp, Executive Secretary; John Sandness, MD, MS, Research Associate; Walter Swentko, MD, Senior Physician; Jean Schnaser, Senior Secretary; John Verby, MD, Director; Roger MacDonald, MD, Associate Director; Terryann Smith, Senior Secretary.

The Rural Physician Associate Program (RPAP) at the University of Minnesota Medical School is a community-based, longitudinal integrated clerkship (LIC) experience during the third year of medical school.

The curriculum was developed as collaboration between the Medical School and rural primary care practices across Minnesota specifically as a pipeline program to increase the number of primary care physicians in rural Minnesota. The Minnesota legislature provided state funding for the program. The rural practices agreed to teach the students and to help fund the students while living and learning in their communities.

Dr. John Verby and his colleagues developed the curriculum and instituted the program in 1971. It has run continuously since then, and RPAP now has 1,500+ graduates. It is considered the oldest longitudinal integrated clerkship in the world and its educational model has been replicated by numerous medical schools in the US, Canada, and Australia. The state of Minnesota continues to provide funding for the program as part of the University of Minnesota allocation. More than 122 communities in Minnesota and western Wisconsin have participated, with populations ranging in size from 1,000 to 30,000. The current RPAP class (2017-2018) has 36 students. The largest class (2006-2007) had 46 students and the smallest class (1983-1984) had 19 students.

There are a number of articles published about RPAP documenting its success in nurturing interest in rural primary care and providing workforce for rural Minnesota. Other medical institutions worldwide continue to visit this program as they plan their rural pipeline program LICs.