High school student Jose Salazar, left, works with PA student Curtis Ciesinski to learn how to suture in a workshop at a recent USC PA Pipeline event. Outreach like the USC PA Pipeline Program helps recruit students from diverse and disadvantaged backgrounds

High school student Jose Salazar, left, works with PA student Curtis Ciesinski to learn how to suture in a workshop at a recent USC PA Pipeline event. Outreach like the USC PA Pipeline Program helps recruit students from diverse and disadvantaged backgrounds

The Primary Care Physician Assistant Program at the Keck School of Medicine of USC has been awarded more than $2.5 million to support scholarships for disadvantaged students, one of only three PA programs nationally to receive this award.

The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, awarded the program $2.596 million to help fund the tuition of 101 disadvantaged students over the next four years.

“We are excited to be able to offer funds to disadvantaged students that will lower their student debt levels,” Program Director Kevin Lohenry, PA-C, PhD said. “We hope to help breakdown some of the barriers for disadvantaged students who seek to enter the PA profession through the Keck School of Medicine at USC.”

The funds will be distributed over the next four years based on financial aid calculations focused on financial need. Scholarships will be awarded to students in amounts from $24,000 to $26,000 toward their costs for attending the graduate program.

Titled “Four Rs for USCPA Scholarship for Disadvantaged Students,” the goals of the grant focus on four aspects to help disadvantaged health care professional students and underserved communities. First is “recruit,” which seeks to increase the number of disadvantaged students entering the program and profession. Second is “retain,” which is intended to help students stay in the program by supporting their educational efforts during their time in school. Third is “reduce,” aimed to lower student debt overall and last is “return” focused on encouraging these scholarship recipients to practice medicine in medically underserved communities.

The receipt of this scholarship fund from HRSA follows in the trail of the PA Program’s success in their outreach, interprofessional and diversity programs such as the USC PA Pipeline, which once a month brings in students from local underserved communities to teach them about careers in health care. The program also received an award for diversity from the Physician Assistant Education Association last year and continues to teach numerous National Health Service Corps scholars.

by Claire Norman