When Alison Porter attended Morehead State University for her undergraduate degree, she “fell in love” with the eastern Kentucky community and the nearby Appalachian Mountains.

Through the UK College of Medicine Rural Physician Leadership Program, the Oil Springs, Ky., native will return to the region for medical school. Porter will start earning her Doctor of Medicine this fall at the University of Kentucky’s large academic medical center in Lexington, Ky. She will train there for two years, followed by two years of rural medicine training in Morehead, Ky.

Porter said that growing up, she noticed family and community members resisting going to the doctor. She is dedicated to helping eastern Kentucky residents build stronger, more comfortable relationships with physicians, particularly through primary care and women’s health because those specialties “are so necessary" in the rural areas.

“Whatever the reason for not going to the doctor may be, this is a problem in eastern Kentucky that many families face,” she said. “My goal is to figure out how to get people to the doctor and how to make them feel as comfortable as possible discussing their problems when they get there.”

Porter believes the Rural Physician Leadership Program will provide her the skills to achieve this goal through specialized training and small class size, leading to more opportunities for one-on-one interactions with faculty.

Porter was inspired to pursue medicine after helping care for her grandmother who suffered a broken hip. “I have always felt a pull to help others,” she said, “but it took until after my granny had passed away to realize what that meant for me and my future career plans. In a way, health care has always been at the center of my life.”

Porter also developed a love for science after earning her master’s degree in veterinary science at UK. She worked in an analytical chemistry laboratory at the Gluck Equine Research Center, where she completed a thesis project identifying protein biomarkers in equine sera, which indicated bisphosphonate administration. The project included preparation of 79 samples three times for a total of 237 samples, as well as research on how bisphosphonates affect the equine system.

Recently promoted to research analyst, Porter works with Abigail Burrows, PhD, and Scott Stanley, PhD, at the UK College of Agriculture, Food, and Environment, optimizing a method to isolate erythropoietin from horse sera samples. She hopes to continue research while in medical school.

As for starting her medical training, she says, “I am grateful to have the opportunity to continue my education at the University that I have learned to call home over the last couple of years.”