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The Office of Rural Initiatives (ORI) exist to address the health care disparities in rural North Carolina through the recruitment and retaining of a diverse primary care provider workforce to meet the unique needs of our rural and underserved communities.

ORI aims to meet this mission through:

  • Educational opportunities in Rural North Carolina

  • Recruitment of students from rural North Carolina to the UNC School of Medicine

  • Pipeline programs in partnership with community and campus partners

  • Exposure to rural and underserved areas of North Carolina

  • Advocacy for healthcare inclusiveness and equity

  • Mentorship and Support


Click to see the ORI Statement of Unity and Inclusion


Our Story

The Office of Rural Initiatives was created in summer 2017 to align efforts related to the education, training, and retention of primary care physicians to rural and underserved areas in North Carolina. The office works with campus and community partners to strengthen and build pipeline programs to support students from rural and underserved areas on a pathway to medicine. Housing the Kenan Rural Primary Care Scholars Program, the Rural Inter-Professional Health Initiative, Rural Primary Care Fellowship program, and the Rural Medicine Project Undergraduate cohort program in partnership with the Office of Scholarships and Student Aid at UNC-Chapel Hill, the Office of Rural Initiatives is working to establish connected resources, support, and programs to expand the number of primary care physicians seeking to serve rural and underserved North Carolina. The office directly reflects the mission and commitment of the UNC School of Medicine and UNC Health Care to serve the people of the state of North Carolina.                                                      Rural Counties in North Carolina

Our Team

Meredith Bazemore, Director, Rural Recruitment and Initiatives

As the Director of the Office of Rural Initiatives, Meredith Bazemore supports the mission of the Office of Rural Initiatives (ORI) through recruitment, outreach, pipeline programs, partnership with health affairs schools on interprofessional opportunities, and program management across all initiatives. With a background in financial aid, admissions, and college access, Meredith works to coordinate efforts of all rural programs to meet the mission of service for rural and underserved areas of North Carolina.

The ORI is the central office for the Kenan Rural Primary Care Scholars program which partners with Mountain Area Health Education Center (MAHEC), and Southeast Area Health Education Center (SEAHEC) to provide rural experiences through six-week internships across Western and Eastern North Carolina, and is the home campus for Kenan Scholars in Central North Carolina. In addition to the Kenan Scholars Program, ORI manages the NC Promise Scholarship, Community Engagement Opportunities, collaborates with the FIRST program with UNC Family Medicine, the Office of Special Programs within UNC School of Medicine to support diversity recruitment efforts, the Rural Interprofessional Health Initiative, and the Rural Medicine Project, a cohort-based program to support UNC Undergraduate students from rural North Carolina.

If you are a prospective student, or currently enrolled student interested in learning more about programs supported through the Office of Rural Initiatives, please email

Kewana Smith, Program Manager Office of Rural Initiatives

As the Coordinator for Interprofessional Health Education and the Office of Rural Initiatives, Kewana supports site coordination and development, develops pipeline programs and serves as Staff Lead for the Central Campus Kenan Rural Scholars. Her role within the Office of Rural Initiatives includes program support across ORI, and the School of Medicine. Kewana is a UNC alumna and has been with the School of Medicine for seven years, spending some of that time as the Standardized Patient Coordinator in the Clinical Skills and Patient Simulation Center. As someone who grew up in rural NC seeing the “health deserts”, Kewana brings a personal connection and passion for distressed communities, and is excited to be part of a team that actively addresses the health disparities in North Carolina.

Caroline Roberts, Faculty Director for Rural Education, Chapel Hill Campus

Dr. Caroline Roberts is a Family Medicine physician and a proud alumna of UNC School of Medicine and UNC Family Medicine Residency. Dr. Roberts practices at Prospect Hill Community Health Center in Prospect Hill, NC (Caswell County), and serves as the faculty lead for rural education for the School of Medicine at the Chapel Hill campus. In her role as the faculty lead, Dr. Roberts supports Kenan Rural Primary Care Scholars, the Rural Scholarly Concentration track, supports the Rural Fellowship program, and is working to expand opportunities around clinical engagement in rural central North Carolina as well as elective opportunities for students.

As a native North Carolinian, from Alamance County, Dr. Roberts is passionate about programs working to address needs of rural and underserved communities across the state.

“My philosophy of care is equal access to quality health care for all, no matter where you’re from, what you earn, what you believe or what you practice,” says Dr. Roberts. “I have always felt like the best way I can serve my surrounding communities is through providing access to quality health care to all, even where it can be difficult to receive, such as rural populations. In my spare time I love to spend time with friends and family outdoors, exploring museums, food and local happenings.”