Physician assistant program at USC announces five new NHSC recipients

Ernesto Ortiz

Ernesto Ortiz, MPAP, PA-C, is a National Health Service Corps scholar from the Primary Care Physician Assistant Program at USC.
Photo by Phil Channing

By Elise Herrera-Green

The Physician Assistant (PA) Program of the Keck School of Medicine of USC announced Oct. 10 the awarding of five new National Health Service Corps (NHSC) scholarships to members of the classes of 2014 and 2015 for the 2012-2013 academic year. 

The NHSC provides physician assistant students with free tuition and a monthly stipend in return for the student’s commitment to practice primary care medicine in a medically underserved community.

The addition of these five scholars bring the toal number of NHSC recipients at the Keck School’s Primary Care PA Program to 24 over the span of four years.

“I have never seen more than one student selected in my past educational positions, so having 24 scholars in this period of time is very rewarding,” said Kevin Lohenry, Ph.D., PA-C, director of the Physician Assistant Program.

NHSC scholarship recipient Ernesto Oritz, MPAP, PA-C, a recent graduate of the Primary Care Physician Assistant Program at USC, is the first in his family to graduate from grad school and says he could not have finished without his involvement in NHSC. He is one of nine scholars from the class of 2012. 

“The mission of our program is to provide primary care services to medically underserved communities,” said Lohenry. “The emphasis we place on encouraging our students to consider this honor have likely contributed to our students’ success in NHSC.”

The PA Program’s involvement in NHSC extends beyond students to their faculty as well. New instuctor Maria Maldonado, MPH, MPAP, PA-C, was an NHSC recipient during her training at the PA Program at USC. She fulfilled her three-year commitment at Community Health Alliance of Pasadena, a non-profit that provides services to children and adults.

“The NHSC allowed me to serve a population of patients that were in tremendous need of care,” said Maldonado.

She now serves as one of three NHSC ambassadors in the PA Program. As an ambassador, she has the responsibility of educating and informing prospective Corps members about the various opportunities available to them. 

Founded in 1972, the NHSC aims to build healthy communities by connecting primary health care providers to areas with limited access to care. Since that time more than 40,000 primary care health professionals have served in the Corps. There are 14,000 NHSC approved sites in rural, urban and frontier areas throughout the United States. 

Selected recipients of the NHSC scholarship must demonstrate a commitment to academia as well as primary care, with emphasis on serving in an underserved community. 

Students have several choices including the NHSC Scholars program and the NHSC Loan Repayment program, which allows graduates to pay off their student loans while working in communities that are in need of primary care providers with tax-free funds.

For more information on NHSC Scholars at the Physician Assistant Program at USC, please visit:

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