Back in the 1960s, the dean of the U of M Medical School noticed a worrisome trend: Newly minted physicians were taking their skills to big cities, creating a dearth of primary care for rural residents.

The solution came in the form of a program initially housed in the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health (DFMCH): Rural Physicians Associate Program (RPAP). Launched in 1971, RPAP created a network of rural physicians who helped medical students experience the benefits of practicing medicine in a small town. Students spend nine months being immersed in a rural community.

Fifty years later, RPAP, an internationally renowned program, has graduated more than 1,600 students. While RPAP now lives within the U of M Medical School, it retains close ties to the DFMCH; in fact, department faculty continue to lead and teach in the program.

More than 60 percent of RPAP alumni go on to practice family medicine, and many RPAP alumni are also DFMCH alumni, such as Macaran Baird, MD, MS, former department head. As RPAP's 50th anniversary approaches, we celebrate the program and how its ongoing legacy is closely intertwined with the department's history.

Read more about RPAP in this story about an early RPAP alum, Tom Birkey, '61 MD, and a new scholarship created in his honor.

If you are an RPAP alum with a story you'd like to share, let us know!