Twenty-seven aspiring physicians are the latest to benefit from the University of Arizona Health Sciences Primary Care Physician Scholarship Program, which continues to address two critical issues in health care: Arizona’s shortage of primary care physicians and a rising amount of debt for medical students.
The Primary Care Physician Scholarship Program awarded scholarships to 18 students in the UArizona College of Medicine – Tucson and nine in the UArizona College of Medicine – Phoenix. The scholarships, awarded annually, are available to incoming and current students. They allow medical students to pursue careers in primary care without worrying about how they will repay medical school debt.
Javon Freeman, a first-year medical student in the UArizona College of Medicine – Phoenix, has lived in medically underserved areas throughout his life. He witnessed families, including his own, forgo medical treatment due to a lack of insurance and the costs of medical visits and treatment plans.
“The scholarship grants me the opportunity to diminish the financial stressors that are associated with attaining medical education,” Freeman said. “That will allow me to cultivate the power of medicine as a tool to reduce health disparities locally and to serve as a liaison between underserved patients and the health care system as a future physician.”
Scholarships are available for students who intend to pursue residency training in family medicine, general internal medicine, geriatric medicine, general pediatrics, psychiatry, obstetrics and gynecology, and general surgery. Each scholarship recipient agrees to practice medicine in a federally designated underserved community for at least two years and up to four years after graduation and residency training.
“I believe that everyone deserves access to affordable, accessible and inclusive health care, and that programs such as the Primary Care Scholarship Program are leading the way in making that a reality for the people of Arizona,” said scholarship recipient McKenna Vesling, a first-year student at the College of Medicine – Tucson.
“The impact of the physician shortage is exacerbated for the Spanish-speaking community of Arizona, as well as historically marginalized groups that have faced discrimination for their race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, physical ability, sex or country of origin,” Vesling added. “With the support of this scholarship, I hope to enter a community-based residency program and then dedicate the rest of my career to serving these groups in an Arizona.”
The Primary Care Physician Scholarship Program is currently supporting 86 active medical students. Thirty-six scholarship recipients have graduated and are in various stages of their residency training. The effects will ripple throughout the state as the students complete their residencies and begin practicing in areas that need medical care the most.
"My career goals align with practicing in Arizona," said scholarship recipient Iliana Manjon, a fourth-year student at the College of Medicine – Tucson. "My dedication to the state began as a child watching my family face the challenges of the medical system as Cuban refugees. Given my upbringing, I value the importance of service and empathize with marginalized populations that face inequitable circumstances such as language barriers and socioeconomic differences."
The Primary Care Physician Scholarship Program was developed in partnership with and funded by a portion of $8 million approved by the Arizona Legislature and Gov. Doug Ducey in 2019.