CONTEXT: Rural medical practice in Norway has an honourable 400 year history, but this has diminished since the end of World War II. Despite official intention to support a decentralised population, rural and remote populations have continuously reduced in Norway over the last 10 years. A consequence of the accompanying reduction in rural and remote GP services has been a distinct reduction in opportunities for medical student and intern placements. In 1999 the University of Tromso implemented some projects to stimulate rural medical practice, funded by the government. This culminated in the 2007 foundation of the Norwegian National Centre of Rural Medicine (NCRM) in Tromso.ISSUE: A key challenge of the NCRM is to identify factors that influence young doctors to choose rural careers. This is reflected in the three concurrent aims or perspectives of the NCRM: (1) to bridge the gap between the academy and rural medical practice (the principal perspective); (2) to promote research, education and networking among rural health professionals (the operational perspective); and (3) to contribute to the recruitment, stability and quality of rural health care (the political perspective).LESSONS LEARNED: The NCRM has had a number of achievements that include a publication that provides a narrative perspective on rural practice, the role of the rural doctor, and how rural culture and context influence proper clinical decision-making. Another achievement is a professional development and research program that has been successful in fostering a number of major studies, and led to the formation of a supportive PhD research group. The NCRM has also facilitated networking between rural practitioners and academics, at conferences and via its rural doctor website, and promoted cooperative international activities. In these ways the NCRM has fostered the transformation of rural doctors' experience into theory to enhance medical knowledge, begun to redress the balance between community- and hospital-based services, and so made a favourable start to building a bridge between rural practice and the medical academy in Norway.