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University of Arizona Health Sciences Initiative Expands Health Care Access, Reduces Student Debt

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University of Arizona Health Sciences Initiative Expands Health Care Access, Reduces Student Debt

The University of Arizona Colleges of Medicine in Tucson and Phoenix will cover tuition for students who commit to practice primary care or another designated critical-access specialty in an underserved community in Arizona.

Arizona faces alarming physician shortages, especially in primary care professions, and particularly in its rural and urban underserved areas. To make matters worse, the prospect of significant student debt can weigh heavily on medical students who may be considering whether to enter into a primary care specialty.

“The new primary care physician scholarship program we have launched will remove significant financial and geographical barriers to education and health care access,” said Dr. Michael D. Dake, senior vice president for UArizona Health Sciences. “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 build a pipeline to place primary care physicians in the Arizona communities where they are needed the most.”

Provided by Office of Communications Creative Team (Credit: University of Arizona Health Sciences, Debra Bowles)

The primary care physician (PCP) shortage extends to all 15 of Arizona’s counties. Nearly 600 PCPs are needed to address the current shortage, and more than 1,900 are estimated to be needed statewide by 2030.

“Of all 50 states, Arizona ranks No. 44 in active PCPs per capita.”

The impact of the PCP shortage is felt every time someone has difficulty finding a nearby provider or has to wait weeks or even months for an appointment. It’s felt when a community’s health declines because it lacks access to preventive care and treatment for chronic conditions.

Concurrently, medical school debt is a real issue for students who can expect to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars toward their degree, and it’s even more daunting for PCPs. New physicians practicing as PCPs have the same student-loan debts as their classmates who earn more money as specialists, resulting in a significant income gap and ability to repay student loans.

About the University of Arizona Primary Care Physician Scholarship Program

To create the next generation of PCPs, UArizona Health Sciences has partnered with the State of Arizona to take steps to tackle the shortage. In May, the State Legislature appropriated a portion of $8 million in annual funding to support free tuition through the University of Arizona Primary Care Physician Scholarship Program. In exchange, graduates will commit to practicing in a rural or urban underserved Arizona community for up to four years, depending on how many years they received the scholarship.

Provided by Office of Communications Creative Team (Credit: University of Arizona Health Sciences, Debra Bowles)

The Primary Care Physician Scholarship Program application is currently open and will be awarded to students beginning January 2020. Fully implemented, the program will cover tuition costs for approximately 100 medical students. Eligible applicants must be enrolled as full-time, in-state medical students at either UArizona College of Medicine – Phoenix or College of Medicine – Tucson.

The application process is competitive, culminating in selecting recipients who demonstrate a clear and strong interest in practicing a primary care specialty in a rural or underserved regions of Arizona.

Tomorrow’s physicians can practice medicine without the burden of medical-school debt, and rural and other underserved Arizonans will enjoy increased access to PCPs in the coming years.