Rural Physician Leadership Program

The University of Kentucky College of Medicine Rural Physician Leadership Program (RPLP) is an educational program housed in Morehead, Ky., designed to train future physicians and health care leaders to provide high-quality, compassionate care in rural settings. 

An important outcome of this unique, four-year medical education program is that graduates gain knowledge and experience necessary to work with civic and community leaders to improve the general health of the communities they serve. 

Students complete their first two years in Lexington following the competitive curriculum required for all UK College of Medicine students. Thanks to a partnership with St. Claire HealthCare, RPLP students will spend their third and fourth years gaining vital clinical experiences through the hospital system and with other health care providers in Northeast Kentucky.

Third year consists of rotations in psychiatry, neurology, surgery, internal medicine, emergency medicine, family medicine, pediatrics, and obstetrics/gynecology. The fourth year consists of two acting internships at UK-approved locations. Students complete nine weeks of elective rotations, which may be done in Morehead, Lexington, or elsewhere.

Additionally, the Morehead State University College of Business and Public Affairs provides a certificate program in which RPLP students may participate. The certificate in health systems leadership is offered during the third year of medical school and is taught in an executive teaching format. The certificate program cover topics such as the use of information technology, financial issues and debt management, and community engagement for health policy.

Upon completion of all components of RPLP, students graduate with a Doctor of Medicine from the UK College of Medicine, qualifying them for internship and residency in any area of medicine, as well as a certificate in health systems leadership upon completion of course work at Morehead State University.

RPLP currently accepts up to 12 students per year. If you are interested in visiting Morehead and learning more about the program, we encourage you to attend an open house. To register, click here.  All open houses begin at 1 p.m. at the Center for Health Education and Research located at 316 West Second Street in Morehead, Ky.

UK College of Medicine RPLP students, Class of 2020

For more information, contact Bodie Stevens, regional site administrator, at 859-562-1542 or

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Why I Chose RPLP?

“Anything you love is worth doing no matter how long it takes to do it.” That was my older brother’s response to my teenage whining about the fact that being a doctor took so many years. I left home at 17 and came to Morehead the first time as an undergraduate student at the University of Kentucky. Following that visit, I only applied to the Rural Physician Leadership Program based in Morehead.

My first two years of medical school were in the Lexingon campus, where small group activities connected me with others like me who would also move to Morehead during our third year. This helped create strong bonds and close community, which were important when moving an hour away from Lexington and away from the rest of our class. The one-on-one learning experience with attendings at St. Claire was powerful and unique. The history of the hospital and the connection of the physicians with the  patients were distinctly different than anything I had experienced before or since. There is no way I would be the doctor I am today without these people: the attendings and the trainees. It was close-knit environment that I valued and carried with me when I left for residency in Vermont.

What no one tells you is that you develop roots to many places. I missed Kentucky, but I was uncertain I could leave Vermont. After all, Vermont is where my husband and I started our marriage. It was where I first took care of my own patients. But Kentucky was never far from my mind. How would it be to work among those with a shared experience where I would not need to explain myself? To be in a place where I could bear witness to others growing up and caring for those in their hometown communities.

Shea Poynter Lambirth, MD
UK College of Medicine, Class of 2013
Rural Physician Leadership Program