WellCare of Kentucky, a subsidiary of WellCare Health Plans, Inc., is funding two new scholarship programs aimed at increasing the number of doctors and nurses working in primary medicine and psychiatry in Eastern Kentucky.
WellCare, in conjunction with the University of Kentucky Medical School and College of Nursing, will fund up to 30 scholarships valued at $180,000 for medical and nursing students at various stages of their studies.
“We know that access to doctors, nurses and other healthcare providers directly affects health outcomes,” said Bill Jones, president, WellCare of Kentucky. “When healthcare is in short supply or located far away, people are less likely to get routine screenings, tests and vaccinations – the type of care that can catch problems early or even prevent illness altogether.”
Despite the importance of primary and psychiatric care, communities in rural Kentucky, particularly in the eastern part of the state, have struggled to attract and retain an adequate number of primary care providers – both doctors and advanced practice nurses.
“We are pleased to see a financial incentive like this that will encourage medical and nursing students to think about the impact they can make on a community that needs their skills,” said Dr. Frances Feltner, director of the University of Kentucky Center of Excellence in Rural Health.
Medical residents currently training in Eastern Kentucky say immersion in the local communities is a crucial component of preparing for a career in rural communities.
“Students interested in becoming healthcare providers in rural areas must receive medical training in rural communities,” said Jordan Adams, a University of Kentucky College of Medicine graduate and medical resident in Hazard, Kentucky. “Many socioeconomic issues are distinct to these areas and directly affect health. These include critical access to facilities and support systems including transportation, lack of education and employment opportunities, and economic disadvantages of practicing in areas of high poverty and unemployment,” Adams said.
Physicians for the Commonwealth Scholarship
WellCare Physicians for the Commonwealth Program will award 20 $5,000 one-year scholarships to incoming medical students who have a strong interest in the University of Kentucky’s Rural Physician Leadership program and are interested in serving an under-served population within Kentucky. The College of Medicine scholarships will support medical students in the University of Kentucky Rural Physician Leadership Program in Morehead and students who will attend the new University of Kentucky College of Medicine Branch Campus in Bowling Green opening in 2018.
The Rural Physician Leadership program offers students opportunities to gain two years of clinical experience with a rural, under-served Kentucky populations. Data shows that physicians who train in more rural areas are more likely to stay in those areas to practice.
College Of Nursing Scholarships
WellCare is also partnering with the University of Kentucky’s College of Nursing to provide $80,000 in scholarship funds for the University of Kentucky College of Nursing. The nurses receiving the scholarships will be in the school’s Doctorate in Nursing Practice Program, which focuses on preparing graduates to lead at the highest clinical and executive ranks.
These scholarships will cover up to ten $8,000 per-semester scholarships for the five-semester study program, and will be awarded to nurses who plan on practicing in primary medicine or behavioral health in rural Kentucky.