LITTLE ROCK — Kristin Mitchell of North Little Rock has been awarded the Arkansas Mutual Medical Student Award, a scholarship for third-year medical students at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) who want to practice primary care in rural Arkansas.

The $10,000 scholarship was funded by the Arkansas Mutual Insurance Co. in partnership with the UAMS College of Medicine to encourage more medical students to enter primary care fields such as family practice, general internal medicine and pediatrics and to practice in rural Arkansas where access to physicians is limited.

Mitchell said that she and her husband, a first-year medical student from a small town in Oklahoma, both want to practice and live in a smaller Arkansas community.

“One of the reasons I am interested in family medicine is the ability to build long-term relationships with patients,” said Mitchell, who is the junior class representative for UAMS’ Family Medicine Interest Group.

“Often in rural communities the family physician is the internist, dermatologist, gastroenterologist and OB/GYN, etc., and it is humbling to think of the trusted role they have in their patients’ lives,” she said. “I love the thought of my family planting in a community and truly investing in it for years.”

More than two-thirds of Arkansas’ counties include federally designated Primary Care Health Professional Shortage Areas. Primary care physician shortages are projected to increase substantially as the state’s population continues to age and require more medical care, and as more Arkansans, now insured as a result of health system reform, seek primary care services.

“UAMS is working very hard to ensure that all Arkansans, wherever they live, have access to crucial primary care services,” said Pope Moseley, M.D., dean of the UAMS College of Medicine and executive vice chancellor of UAMS. “Scholarships such as the Arkansas Mutual Medical Student Award are a powerful tool for encouraging future physicians to pursue primary care practice in rural communities.”

“Arkansas Mutual is deeply committed to improving rural health care in our state,” said Corey Little, CEO of the company, the only medical liability insurance provider headquartered in Arkansas. “We are so pleased to offer this scholarship to such a deserving student as Kristin Mitchell. She will make a very fine primary care physician and is clearly committed to improving the health of citizens in medically underserved areas.”

“A goal of mine as a future physician is to work towards equipping patients to take ownership of their health,” said Mitchell. “It is exciting to think about possibilities such as free monthly health seminars at the clinic and community exercise programs to empower patients to meet their health goals. While it is possible to carry those out in larger places, practicing in a rural community allows you to not only invest in your patients but also be closely involved with the community at large.”

The College of Medicine has worked with private partners such as Arkansas Mutual to increase scholarships. The high cost of medical school and the burden of educational debt that most medical students face when entering their postgraduate residency training can be a factor in choosing higher-paying specialties instead of primary care and practice in rural areas. The average medical school debt of the 2015 UAMS graduates who have educational debt is $179,673.

UAMS is the state’s only comprehensive academic health center, with colleges of Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Health Professions and Public Health; a graduate school; a hospital; a northwest Arkansas regional campus; a statewide network of regional centers; and seven institutes: the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, the Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute, the Myeloma Institute, the Harvey & Bernice Jones Eye Institute, the Psychiatric Research Institute, the Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging and the Translational Research Institute. It is the only adult Level 1 trauma center in the state. UAMS has 3,021 students, 789 medical residents and two dental residents. It is the state’s largest public employer with more than 10,000 employees, including about 1,000 physicians and other professionals who provide care to patients at UAMS, Arkansas Children’s Hospital, the VA Medical Center and UAMS regional centers throughout the state. Visit www.uams.edu or www.uamshealth.com. Find us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or Instagram.

###