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Rural and Urban Scholars Pathways

What is RUSP?

The Rural and Urban Scholars Pathways program is a co-curricular opportunity unique to the Heritage College. When launched in 2013, the purpose of RUSP was simple: To prepare future physicians to practice in medically underserved communities. With the addition of the 2022–2023 cohort, the total number of students participating in the RUSP program is 138, including all four years across all three campuses.

Watch the video below to hear RUSP graduate, Alyssa Gerth, D.O. (’20), talk about the RUSP program in her own words.

Goals of RUSP

  • Encourage students toward rural and urban underserved practice

  • Develop competencies relevant to rural and urban underserved practice 

  • Provide opportunities for students to develop leadership skills in team settings

  • Increase awareness of local community assets and develop a sense of place in a rural or urban underserved community

  • Build specific skills in depth and in authentic context

  • Promote community-engaged scholarly work in underserved settings

  • Promote excellence in practice

RUSP Defining Moments - WOUB PodcastOverview of RUSP -
Value of Clinical Jazz - Article 

RUSP Pathway Article

Components of RUSP

  • Clinical Jazz, a longitudinal small-group experience in leadership development and peer coaching with a focus on competencies for practice in an underserved setting, experiential place-based learning and mentorship

  • Individualized coaching with a physician who has practiced in a rural and/or urban underserved community

  • Professional development workshops focused on (1) skill-building for a broad scope of practice, (2) problem-solving with invited guests and (3) other active exploration of issues relevant to rural and urban underserved practice

  • Immersion experience for students in between their first and second years in a setting of relative austerity (possibly a global health experience)

  • Six months or the equivalent of curricular time in a rural or urban underserved setting

  • Scholarly project relevant to the health of rural and urban underserved communities

Other Opportunities and Scholarships

  • RUSP students interested in practicing in rural settings are encouraged to apply to the Rural Health Scholars Retreat each fall (open to students from all of Ohio’s medical schools).

  • RUSP will support any RUSP student in their application for scholarships offered by the Heritage College.

Apply to RUSP

Unlike many other rural or urban tracks at medical schools, RUSP is a pathway. This means that students can apply to the program during any year of medical school or as an accepted pre-matriculated student. The application opens each academic year on November 1. The deadline for current students to apply is March 15. The deadline for pre-matriculating students is May 1. Learn more by reviewing the RUSP Info Session PowerPoint from 1/25/23.

Students are encouraged to download and review a PDF copy of the application in advance, in order to know what documents are needed at time of submission.

FAQS Apply Here


For questions or additional information, please contact Dawn Mollica, administrative director.

The RUSP Team

The RUSP program was designed and implemented by Randall Longenecker, M.D., assistant dean of rural and underserved programs, in 2013. The RUSP team includes director Sharon Casapulla, Ed.D., M.P.H., and three associate directors, one on each campus. Katy Kropf, D.O. ('02), is the associate director on the Athens campus. Fran Blais, D.O., is the associate director on the Dublin campus, and Jessica Griggs, D.O. ('98), M.P.H., M.B.A., is the  associate director on the Cleveland campus. We are supported in our work by Dawn Mollica, administrative director for the Office of Rural and Underserved Programs. Feel free to reach out to any member of the RUSP team for more information. We look forward to hearing from you. 

Each of the physician leaders on the RUSP team has been in rural or urban underserved practice. RUSP students receive regular coaching from some of the top instructors in medicine, including the National Rural Health Association's Educator of the Year and two who were named Mentor of the Year.