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Physician Assistant Student Receives NHSC Scholarship

A physician assistant student at Pennsylvania College of Technology was awarded a full scholarship for 2010-11 through the National Health Service Corps.

Heather J. Simonson, a junior from Catawissa, was one of 125 students selected from a pool of 65,000 applicants.

The competitive scholarships cover tuition, fees and other educational costs and provide a living stipend for as many as four years of health care training in exchange for an equal number of years (two years minimum) of service at an approved medical facility in a high-need, underserved area soon after the scholar graduates.

Simonson and other candidates were selected based on grades, essay writing, letters of recommendation, sincerity in the desire to serve underserved medical populations and community service.

Simonson’s community service includes opening a maternity store in her hometown of Pocatello, Idaho, where she wanted not only to provide the only shopping for pregnant women within a 50-mile radius, but also to offer education to mothers.

She recruited specialists to offer instruction in a classroom built into the shop, often at no cost for low-income and first-time parents. She worked with obstetricians to get low-income parents and women considered at-risk for abusing their infants to attend classes specially designed to help prevent child abuse; she chaired a support group for at-risk mothers, and she offered incentives in the shop to those at-risk mothers who participated in various activities, including courses and doctors’ visits.

The scholarship program is open to students enrolled in accredited medical (Doctor of Medicine or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine), dental, nurse practitioner, certified nurse midwife or physician assistant training.

The need for primary care in underserved communities across the nation is serious, according to the NHSC, and applicants must be committed to practicing primary care and be able to relocate based on the needs of the NHSC in those communities.

“Through the National Health Service Corps, I will be privileged to work with those who are otherwise underserved in the health community,” Simonson said. “This program is important to the patients because it allows them to have access to health care that they might not otherwise have.”

According to the NHSC, since 1972, more than 30,000 clinicians have served in the corps, expanding access to health care services and improving the health of people who live in urban and rural areas where health care is scarce.

About half of all NHSC clinicians work in Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA)-supported Health Centers, which deliver preventive and primary-care services to patients regardless of their ability to pay. About 40 percent of Health Center patients have no health insurance.

To learn more about the physician assistant degree and other academic programs offered by the School of Health Sciences at Penn College, call 570-327-4519 or visit online .

For general information about the college, visit on the Web , e-mail or call toll-free 800-367-9222.

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