Objective: To determine whether a short-term placement of metropolitan medical students in a rural environment can improve their knowledge of, and change their attitudes to, rural health issues. Design and participants: Medical students taking part in the March and May 2013 3-week Rural Health Modules (RHMs) were invited to participate in focus groups and complete questionnaires before undertaking the RHM, after a 2-day rural orientation and at the end of the RHM. Students were asked to comment on a range of issues affecting rural health care including their attitude to pursuing a rural career. Focus group transcripts were thematically analysed and questionnaire data were statistically analysed. Setting: The RHM is a 3-week program designed and run by the University of Melbourne's Rural Health Academic Centre. Main outcome measures: Responses to questionnaire items from before and after completing the RHM, scored on a seven-point Likert scale. Results: 69 of the 101. RHM students took part in this study. The focus groups identified five main themes in rural health care: access; teamwork, models of care and generalist practice; overlapping relationships; indigenous health; and working in a rural career. In all five areas, a change was seen in the depth of knowledge students had about these issues and in the students' attitudes towards rural health care. The questionnaires also showed a significant shift in the students' appreciation of, and positivity towards, rural health issues. Conclusion: Undertaking a 3-week RHM changed students' perceptions of rural health and improved their knowledge of issues facing rural health practitioners and patients.