OBJECTIVES: Residents of rural communities, especially in the Southeast, have decreased access to health care. Ensuring medical students receive adequate exposure to their issues is complicated by the urban location of most schools. We describe health fairs conducted in rural communities to suggest how having medical students use screening tools can identify patients with risk factors for disease which can offer students the opportunity to learn about rural health issues through patient counseling. METHODS: The Mitchell Wolfson Sr. Department of Community Service, a University of Miami Miller School of Medicine student-led organization, conducts fairs at four sites throughout the rural Florida Keys. Medical students, under the supervision of attending physicians, offer screening and preventive health services including risk factor screening for cardiovascular disease, ophthalmological exams, dermatologic exams, osteoporosis screening, and female exams with pap smears. These fairs were reviewed. RESULTS: In the past three years, 1694 unique patients were seen. Many lacked a primary care provider (46%) or health insurance (43%) and were provided screening for several disorders including cardiovascular disease risk factors (hypertension, diabetes, dyslipidemia, and obesity). Screening revealed that many patients (41%) had multiple markers of elevated cardiovascular disease risk. This provided experiences to more than 200 students each year. CONCLUSION: Fairs provide medical students exposure to rural health issues through the valuable opportunity of using risk factor screening tools and counseling. This provides valuable information to patients of rural communities. Future research should examine how fairs influence student knowledge and attitudes toward rural health and affect health outcomes.
- undergraduate; preventive health services; risk factors; rural health services; social planning