BACKGROUND: Despite efforts to construct targeted medical school admission processes using applicant-level correlates of future practice location, accurately gauging applicants' interests in rural medicine remains an imperfect science. This study explores the usefulness of textual analysis to identify rural-oriented themes and values underlying applicants' open-ended responses to admission essays.

METHODS: The study population consisted of 75 applicants to the Rural Physician Leadership Program (RPLP) at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine. Using WordStat, a proprietary text analysis program, applicants' American Medical College Application Service personal statement and an admission essay written at the time of interview were searched for predefined keywords and phrases reflecting rural medical values. From these text searches, derived scores were then examined relative to interviewers' subjective ratings of applicants' overall acceptability for admission to the RPLP program and likelihood of practicing in a rural area.

RESULTS: The two interviewer-assigned ratings of likelihood of rural practice and overall acceptability were significantly related. A statistically significant relationship was also found between the rural medical values scores and estimated likelihood of rural practice. However, there was no association between rural medical values scores and subjective ratings of applicant acceptability.

CONCLUSIONS: That applicants' rural values in admission essays were not related to interviewers' overall acceptability ratings indicates that other factors played a role in the interviewers' assessments of applicants' acceptability for admission.

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Published in Medical Education Online, v. 20, article 27081, p. 1-4.

© 2015 Carol L. Elam et al. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), allowing third parties to copy and redistribute the material in any medium or format and to remix, transform, and build upon the material for any purpose, even commercially, provided the original work is properly cited and states its license.

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