September 16, 2002

 

UNION COLLEGE PHYSICIAN ASSISTANT STUDENTS

RECEIVE FULL-RIDE SCHOLARSHIP

 

LINCOLN—Two Union College physician assistant majors were awarded a full-ride National Health Corps Scholarship (NHCS). A third physician assistant major was granted alternate status and would receive the NHCS were one of the recipients to turn down the scholarship. John Walters and Roberta Yoshimura are the third and fourth NHCS winners from Union since the opening of the Physician Assistant Program in 1999. Program director Mike Huckabee said, “It is thrilling to have two students at our program receive this award. God is truly blessing these exceptional individuals.” Shelly Hajny, also a physician assistant major, received alternate status.

NHCS winners receive full tuition to the physician assistant program of their choice, including books and medical equipment, travel expenses and a $1,028 monthly stipend to cover expenses. The only stipulation is that they practice for two years in an underserved area in the United States.

Walters has requested a position in Alaska after his training is complete. “I have always wanted to live in Alaska because I enjoy being in nature,” Walters said. “I admire the spirit of the people who live there.” Walters said he is elated and humbled that he was chosen by the NHCS. “For me, receiving the scholarship means that God answers prayers. I can relax and focus on my studies, and know that my school bill is covered.”

Yoshimura is flattered that the NHCS considered her qualified both for the scholarship and to serve her country in a medically underserved area. “My volunteer work as a doctor’s assistant in a remote village in Guatemala has given me great empathy for those who are ‘left out’—who need medical care but the nearest clinic is many miles away,”  she said. Yoshimura feels her volunteer experience coupled with the education she is receiving at Union College will give her the tools necessary to serve in a rural community.

Candidates filled out a 16-page application and finalists interviewed with NHCS. Award recipients showed a strong interest in providing health care to underserved populations based on their responses in the application and personal interview.

The NHCS, a federal program dedicated to providing health care and improving the health status of underserved populations, makes the scholarships available to medical students, nurse practitioners, physician assistants and nurse midwives. The latest available statistics show that 284 NHC scholarships were given nationwide in 2000.

Marie McEntee and Becky Stafford, Union College physician assistant graduates and 1999 NHCS winners, are employed in underserved areas. McEntee is serving in Leota, Kan., and Stafford is employed as a health-care provider for immigrants with the Immigration and Naturalization Service in California. In addition to the Health Corps winners, nearly 30 percent of Union College physician assistant graduates work in an underserved area including eight who serve in understaffed locations in Nebraska. Overall, a total of 31 physician assistant graduates from Union College work in Nebraska, with 16 employed within the Lincoln area.