Two of our most important education-related strategic initiatives at the University of Arizona Health Sciences are training students to serve Arizona’s diverse communities – especially the medically underserved communities around the state – and reducing student debt.
A new program funded by the State of Arizona that we are launching today – the Primary Care Physician Scholarship Program – will address both of those critical issues simultaneously. The program will provide free tuition to medical students who agree to practice primary care or another critical-access specialty in a federally designated underserved community in Arizona for at least two years after completing their residency.
Earlier this year, state legislators approved $8 million in annual funding to address the severe statewide primary care physician shortage and the growing burden of student debt. Arizona needs nearly 600 primary care physicians today, and that number is expected to grow to more than 1,900 by 2030.
The new scholarship will remove financial and geographical barriers to education and health care access. Through this single program, we will alleviate a major roadblock that keeps many individuals who have the potential to be great doctors from applying to medical school, and we will begin building a pipeline to place primary care physicians in the Arizona communities where they are needed the most.
The University of Arizona Colleges of Medicine in Tucson and Phoenix will begin providing free tuition to students in the spring semester. Under the new scholarship program’s guidelines, a primary care physician is someone who has completed residency training in one of the following specialties: family medicine, general internal medicine, geriatric medicine, general pediatrics, psychiatry, or obstetrics and gynecology. By being given the opportunity to graduate largely debt-free, we hope more students will pursue primary care as a career.
The application process is expected to be competitive, culminating in a pool of scholarship recipients who demonstrate a clear and strong interest in practicing a primary care specialty in a rural or urban underserved area of Arizona. Beginning now, UArizona medical students who are interested can learn more and apply for the scholarship program.
Through this bold new initiative, we will be able to meet our goals of graduating students with lower levels of debt and expanding health care delivery to every corner of the state of Arizona.
Michael D. Dake, MD
Senior Vice President
University of Arizona Health Sciences