Third-year medical student Hallie Foster grew up in a city, but her heart belongs in the country.
“I always knew I wanted to work with patients in areas with doctor shortages and access-to-care problems,” Foster said. “Originally, I had dreams of working internationally as a physician in foreign countries that could use a few more doctors.”A conversation with one of her cousins in her grandparents’ eastern Ohio backyard changed the course of her life.
“She told me to take a look around,” Foster said. “Good doctors are needed out here, too.”
Since then, Foster focused her attention on some of the nation’s most underserved regions.
Foster spent the summer after her first year at The University of Toledo College of Medicine and Life Sciences completing a clinical preceptorship at East Tennessee State University. She worked alongside health-care professionals in eastern Tennessee to learn about improving the health and well-being of Appalachian Americans.
“I’m a latecomer to rural health care, but I’m committed to health-care equality for people who don’t live in close proximity to the dense resources available in an urban area,” Foster said. “The need is absolutely there, and the people face unique vulnerabilities not seen in other parts of the country.”
As a student constituency group board member with the National Rural Health Association, Foster is developing a student-alumni network to expand mentorship from recent graduates to current student members.
For her work on the student board, Foster won the 2016 Student Leadership Award from the National Rural Health Association.
The nonprofit organization honored Foster in Minneapolis during its 39th Annual Rural Health Conference, the largest gathering of rural health professionals in the country. Foster is one of seven people across the country who was recognized at the conference in May in Minnesota.
“Every year, rural Americans come together to gain education and raise awareness on behalf of the 62 million Americans who live in rural areas and desperately need access to affordable health care,” said Alan Morgan, CEO of the National Rural Health Association. “We are especially proud of this year’s winners. They have each already made tremendous strides to advance rural health care, and we’re confident they will continue to help improve the lives of rural Americans.”
The National Rural Health Association’s membership is made up of 21,000 individuals and organizations.
“This is a staggering honor,” said Foster, who plans to pursue a psychiatry-focused residency. “I hope my relationship with the National Rural Health Association will be long, and I plan to continue a focus on rural health care throughout my career.”