There are 29 rural hospitals in the sunshine state, 19 of which are federally designated as medically underserved. Sixteen-year-old April twine is one step closer to achieving her childhood dream, becoming a doctor.
"I went my doctor and saw how she was and the comfort and care she gave and I want to give other people that,” says April.
April is just one of 14 students chosen to take part in a summer program called RIPE, the Rural Introduction to Premedical Education.
Most of the students are from small panhandle communities, many of them rural, with underserved medical needs. Program coordinators hope this hands-on experience will encourage these kids to return to their rural communities as a hometown doctor.
"Part of our mission at the FSU Medical School is to reach out to the rural areas and bring them education all the way down to the youth," says the RIPE program coordinator.
But how many of these students will actually set up shop in their hometown? Fifteen-year-old Jamie Smith of Crestview doubts she will. However, April is certain she will practice in the place where her childhood dream was born.
"I'm from a small community and I know they need help. I want to be one of those helping them,” Jamie says.
They say home is where the heart is, and April Twine doesn't want to miss a beat when it comes to keeping her hometown healthy.
The RIPE program is a one week summer camp open to juniors and seniors across Florida. Next year, organizers hope to make it a six week camp with more students.