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Future physician wants to return to hometown

By By Staff Reports, Hartselle Enquirer
A Falkville resident has earned a spot in a prestigious program designed to attract doctors to rural areas.
Ross Summerford, son of Robert and Dana Summerford of Falkville, earned his master’s degree in Rural Community Health from The University of Alabama in May and will enter medical school at the University of Alabama School of Medicine in Birmingham this summer. He is a member of the 2008-2009 class in the UA Rural Medical Scholars Program, which admits outstanding rural students who plan to become rural physicians.
Summerford looks forward to becoming a doctor in his hometown and caring for the people of Falkville and neighboring towns as well as the residents in his father’s nursing home. “I feel that I can have a greater impact by practicing medicine in a rural area,” he said. “Also, I love the sense of community and closeness that small towns provide.”
Selection for the RMSP — which accepts 10 college seniors or graduate students per year and provides training with rural preceptors, agromedicine experiences, and classes in rural community health — is based on a competitive application process open only to students from rural Alabama who wish to become rural physicians. Acceptance into RMSP includes early admission to the University of Alabama School of Medicine at UAB.
Summerford, who finished third in his 2004 class at Falkville High School, graduated summa cum laude from The University of Alabama in May 2008, earning a bachelor’s degree in biology with a minor in business. At UA, he was a member of Phi Eta Sigma Honor Society, Golden Key International Honor Society, and the students’ booster club for the Crimson Tide basketball team. He played intramural football, basketball, and softball as well as church league softball and men’s league basketball. Summerford has been active in community and church activities as well. Since 2001, he has participated in “Hunters Helping the Hungry” in which venison donated by hunters to local food banks is used to feed needy people. He has also volunteered with Habitat for Humanity, the American Cancer Society “Relay for Life” (Tuscaloosa County), March of Dimes “WalkAmerica,” Community Soup Bowl, and several ministries of Calvary Baptist Church in Tuscaloosa.
Summerford grew up on a 2500-acre cattle farm with responsibility for feeding the cows, hauling hay, building fences, and, when he was older, vaccinating the cattle to prevent diseases. He also spent time in recreation activities with the residents of Summerford Nursing Home in Falkville, a health care facility owned and operated by his father and mother, who is a registered nurse. Ross and his twin brother operated a summer grass-mowing business, sometimes cutting yards for elderly residents for no charge. Ross has worked as a camp counselor, phlebotomist at the nursing home and at Tuscaloosa Internal Medicine, and as a farm worker. He says his childhood relationships with patients at the nursing home plus his varied work and volunteer experiences have allowed him to interact with people of all ages and different ethnic and economic backgrounds.