North Central Indiana Area Health Education Center (NCI-AHEC) aims to develop the healthcare infrastructure by encouraging rural students to pursue healthcare professions. In light of rural healthcare shortages found in Indiana, they implemented a pipeline program, Successfully Training and Educating Pre-medical Students (STEPS). This program offers mentoring and educational assistance to pre-health-professional undergraduate students at Indiana University – Kokomo. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Purdue research team partnered with NCI-AHEC to conduct a completely virtual mixed method study that examined the initial impact of the STEPS program and made recommendations for improvement.

The opportunities for virtual collaboration created during the COVID-19 pandemic allowed for thorough evaluation of NCI-AHEC’s STEPS program. Initial evaluation suggests that the STEPS program is beneficial in assisting rural students on their path to a career in healthcare. Using the actionable recommendations that came from this study, NCI-AHEC will contribute to a growing generation of capable, well-prepared healthcare providers in rural Indiana.