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The University of Alabama

UA Faculty Member Inducted into Alabama Healthcare Hall of Fame

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Dr. John Wheat, professor of community and rural medicine in The University of Alabama College of Community Health Sciences, was recently inducted into the Alabama Healthcare Hall of Fame in Montgomery.

Dr. John Wheat, right, received a plaque from the Alabama Healthcare Hall of Fame from Don Ball, president of the Hall of Fame.

Wheat, who founded and directs the Rural Scholars Pipeline Programs at UA, is nationally known for his work in helping rural students who want to become primary care physicians serving rural areas.

“No single individual in the modern era has done more to address the shortage of primary care physicians in Alabama than Dr. Wheat,” said Holley Midgley, recently retired executive director of the Alabama Academy of Family Physicians. “Alabama will continue to receive the dividends from his work for many decades.”

Dr. Hiram Johnson of Tuscaloosa nominated Wheat. Wheat’s previous recognitions include the Ira L. Myers Award from the Alabama Public Health Association, special recognition from the Alabama Family Practice Rural Health Board and leadership positions in the National Rural Health Association’s Rural Medical Educator Interest Group, the North American Agromedicine Consortium and the Stueland Scholar Award from the National Farm Medicine Center in Marshfield, Wis.

Since students from rural areas are more likely than other medical students to choose practice sites in rural communities, Wheat has focused his administrative and research efforts on programming to recruit, train and place primary care doctors in the underserved rural communities in Alabama. The documented success of these programs brought national recognition to Alabama’s efforts to provide rural doctors, and he was named the 2007 Distinguished Educator of the Year by the National Rural Health Association.

In 2007, Wheat also received a commendation from Gov. Bob Riley, who said: “Dr. Wheat is a well-known and respected leader in our state in rural medical education – particularly regarding the need to recruit rural students into medical and health careers and to support them through their professional training . . . This ‘pipeline’ to recruit and nurture rural students is a model that is being replicated in our state and one which other states can look to as we all seek to improve quality of health care in underserved communities.”

Wheat grew up in Sumter and Autauga counties in Alabama and is best known for his role as founder and director of the Rural Health Leaders Pipeline. It includes programs for Rural Health Scholars (11th-graders), Rural Medical Scholars (a five-year medical education track for premed and medical students that leads to a Doctor of Medicine) and the Rural Minority Health Scholars for college-bound high school graduates.  Students have entered the pipeline from rural areas in every county in the state.

Wheat sees patients at UA’s University Medical Center. He earned a Bachelor of Science from UA , a Doctor of Medicine from The University of Alabama School of Medicine, and a Master of Public Health from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he also served as chief resident while completing post-doctoral training in epidemiology and preventive medicine.

He completed residency training in internal medicine at Mayo Clinic, and he is board certified in internal medicine, general preventive medicine/public health and occupational and environmental medicine.

His academic interests revolve around vulnerable and underserved rural populations, e.g. preventive and agricultural medicine for the farming community; insurance and health care systems for uninsured rural children; and the educational and community developments.

The College of Community Health Sciences operates a comprehensive, state-of-the-art medical clinic, University Medical Center, where College faculty members conduct their medical practices and where students and residents receive clinical experience and training. The College’s research component supports faculty and student research efforts, including clinical trials.

The University of Alabama, a student-centered research university, is experiencing significant growth in both enrollment and academic quality. This growth, which is positively impacting the campus and the state's economy, is in keeping with UA's vision to be the university of choice for the best and brightest students. UA, the state's flagship university, is an academic community united in its commitment to enhancing the quality of life for all Alabamians.