Rural Health Scholars bring aid to less fortunate

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For Matthew Neville, a senior biology major from Riverton, his favorite experience was Panama.

“We were able to basically be doctors in real situations — under the supervision of a real doctor,” he said.

Neville traveled to Panama as a participant in the Utah Rural Health Scholars program, giving medical aid to residences in rural areas of the country where medical resources and doctors are scarce. 

Rural Health Scholars offers health science students opportunities to receive hands-on training through community service and job-shadowing local medical professionals, as well as traveling outside the country for cultural immersion experiences. Aaron Reynolds, the program coordinator, recommended health science students get involved as early as possible.  

“We recommend that freshmen, sophomores, get involved,” he said. “It’s never too early to have the information you need. A lot of programs require and ask for material from all four years prior to starting med school.”

In order to become involved, students must register for Biology 3000, where they fill out the necessary paperwork. While Reynolds said there are no prerequisites, he also said students should be interested in graduate health programs such as medical school, optometry school, and dentistry school.

Neville is in his second semester of the program. He said the class has taught him exactly what he needs to do for his graduate program, and he wishes he had started sooner.

“I would have not made some of the mistakes I’ve made,” he said.

Neville said one of his mistakes was not understanding the requirements for grad school.

“I assumed that (for) shadowing hours I could use LDS mission service hours…on my application to graduate school,” he said. “But I found out I can’t use those hours — it has to be while you’re in school.”

As for Neville’s favorite part, the travel, the program offers students the chances to travel to three other countries and provide medical service: the Dominican Republic, Panama and Nicaragua.

“We went to Managua and then we go out to the rural areas around and kind of set up,” he said. “We have local docs from Nicaragua or Panama and set up little clinics. The students help facilitate it.” 

The students also go to the Four Corners area and volunteer at the Indian Health Service Hospitals, as well as make a trip to Las Vegas to shadow health professionals.  

Heather Bandle, a senior pre-med major from Orem, became involved with Rural Health Scholars after speaking with three advisers from both SUU and DSC. She said her favorite part of the program was interacting with the advisers.

“[The advisers] are readily available,” she said. “You can call them anytime; they’re really easygoing. You can talk to them and ask millions of questions, and they’ll answer them.”

Neville said the class will prepare students for everything they need for graduate school applications, and students should come check the class out if they’re interested.

Reynolds said students should join the program because of the advantage it gives them when applying for graduate programs.

He said: “It’s a proven track record of getting students into graduate programs (and) helping them prepare for the process.”