At Mercer University Friday, Governor Nathan Deal recognized the School of Medicine's work to place doctors in Georgia’s Rural Counties.

The first 25 students to receive the Physicians for Rural Georgia Scholarships were honored. In exchange for the state covering 85% of their tuition for 4 years the students commit to at least 4 years of full-time medical practice in a rural Georgia county.

It was funded through $35,000,000 from the state through an agreement from Medicare and Medicaid in 2016. Governor Nathan Deal says keeping doctors in the state is important for health care in Georgia.

"It gives them a financial incentive to return to a smaller community whether it's the one they grew up in or similar situated areas in our state,” explains Governor Deal.

Kent Beam is a medical student in the program. He says he grew up in a small, rural town near Valdosta. Beam says getting to a doctor in time was always difficult.

"It was probably at least going to be a 30-minute drive and sometimes in a serious situation you don't have that kind of time. So it's really important to have doctors close to you,” says Beam.

Many of the students in the first class called "Nathan Deal's Scholars" are also from rural communities. The scholarship program accepts new applicants each fall.