Close friends Charles Price, Kassidy Price, and Katie Ward have leaned on one another throughout their medical training. When they graduate this spring and embark on their next journey, residency, it will be the first time they live in different towns in more than eight years.

Charles and Kassidy, who are married now, grew up together in Lawrence County, Ky. While attending Morehead State University (MSU), they met Katie, who is from Pike County, Ky.

Seven years ago, during sophomore year at MSU, they all enrolled the Early Assurance Program (EAP), a new program at the time guaranteeing them acceptance into the UK College of Medicine Rural Physician Leadership Program (RPLP). EAP prepared them for medical school by hosting an exam preparatory course, mock interviews, and a boot camp. EAP also introduced them to current RPLP students who could explain the benefits of UK’s rural medicine training.

This spring, they will be among the first EAP students to graduate from the UK College of Medicine.

Throughout medical school, Charles, Kassidy, and Katie studied together for exams, helped each other through clinical rotations, and talked through the exciting (and sometimes nerve-wracking) steps ahead in their careers, such as Match Day and graduation.

“We’re family now,” Kassidy said. “If I need anything, I know I can message any of the RPLP students, but especially Katie if I need someone to check in on my cats while I’m on vacation. And if there's something personal going on in life, you have a family that knows exactly what you're going through every day.”

As RPLP students, Charles, Kassidy, and Katie enjoyed a unique, specialized training experience together. They completed their first two years of medical school in Lexington, Ky. Then they joined a small group of medical students for two years of clinical experiences with St. Claire HealthCare in Morehead, Ky.

With a program size of around 10-12 students each class, they had plentiful one-on-one time with attendings and a lot of early, hands-on practice. They also became close with RPLP’s supportive staff, including student affairs officer Bodie Stevens, who assisted them from EAP to graduation and who Charles called “a staple” of RPLP.

On Match Day, Charles and Kassidy learned they matched as a couple at the Marshall University School of Medicine in West Virginia. Meanwhile, Katie will pursue a pediatrics residency at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga.

“It’s going to be weird not seeing each other so often,” Katie said. “I’m sad, but it’s a good kind of sad because it means you had a really good experience.”