Tune in to Focus Carolina during morning, noon and evening drive times and on the weekends to hear stories from faculty members at UNC and find out what ignites their passion for their work. Focus Carolina is an exclusive program on 97.9 The Hill WCHL, sponsored by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Dr. Robert Bashford recruits medical school students who have what he calls a rural heart. He helps train and mentor those students to be primary care physicians in under-served areas of North Carolina.

“I love this state,” said Dr. Bashford. “I’ve learned that we’ve got massive pockets of no service to poor service in the healthcare world in this state.”

The mission for Dr. Bashford is to put doctors in rural spaces in North Carolina.

“We’ve got counties that have literally no doctors. We’ve got counties that have no surgeons. I’m a psychiatrist. The mental health system is broken into smithereens in this state.”

The primary audience for this program is students who have grown up in rural counties.

Dr. Bashford said students who enter this program can’t be bought, they have to have a “rural heart.”

“They’ve got to want to be back in that rural space. If you grew up in Charlotte, you’re not gonna go out into the country to practice medicine.”

For Dr Bashford, getting in front of young people before they go to college is key to completing the rural healthcare puzzle.

“There’s an equally important piece, which is pipelining — that is going backwards and getting in front of these young people in high school and junior high school and talking with them about things they had never even dreamt, which is the concept of being an occupational therapist, a pulmonary therapist, nurse, a social worker.”

Many students don’t realize the many ways to get into the medical field.

“They’ve never thought about the idea that they could be an occupational therapist and make a massive difference in the needs of patients, all aspects of allied health. Those fields that support the doc and make it possible for him to be more effective and in fact know how to do things that doc has no idea how to do.”