Five students from the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing (JHUSON) are among the 213 recipients of scholarships and loan repayment from the National Health Service Corps (NHSC). The NHSC is a network of 7,500 primary healthcare professionals at 10,000 sites working in underserved communities across the country. To support their service, the NHSC provides clinicians with financial support in the form of loan repayment and scholarships.
Two of the JHUSON’s new NHSC scholars Alisa Fallow and Wendy Holland, were invited to attend a press conference in November where Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced that more medical professionals will be eligible for federal assistance, thanks to an infusion of $290 million through the Affordable Care Act. At the press conference, the nurse practitioner students met with Secretary Sebelius, Mary Wakefield, administrator of the Health Resources and Services Administration, and Senator Barbara Mikulski (MD-D).
The JHUSON recipients–Fallow, Holland, Melinda Pritchett, Christine Young, and Stephanie Miller–were drawn to the NHSC based on personal experiences with underserved populations. Growing up in Washington, Holland witnessed the hurdles that migrant workers, Native Americans, and single-parent families faced in the medical system. “These priority populations need strong advocates in a medical system that can be confusing, intimidating, expensive, and often times inaccessible. I hope to go back there with fresh eyes and new experiences and help them,” she says.
Pritchett observed health disparities common in developing countries during her travels to the Philippines to visit family. She wants to work with immigrants and refugees after graduation “[offering] access to primary care services regardless of their ability to pay,” she says.
Young worked as an educator for diverse and underserved populations before becoming a nurse. She looks forward to becoming a pediatric nurse practitioner and connecting with people who share the same ideas. “I want to be a part of a solution to improve inequities,” Young explains.
During a trip to South Africa in 2009, Miller was struck by the inadequate healthcare system. “Focusing on health disparities and inequality, it was both amazing and heartbreaking at the same time, and inspired me to do something more in my life as a health care provider,” she says.
For Fallow, working with underserved populations is a dream job. As a family nurse practitioner she will serve the NHSC by “seeking these populations out, identifying their needs, and learning to address them in ways that they can understand and realistically manage.”
In addition to scholarships for current students, the NHSC provides up to $170,000 in loan repayment to healthcare professionals. The rules for the program changed recently, making the application process easier and allowing nurse practitioners to work part-time during their commitment to the NHSC.
Several JHUSON alumni are recipients of loan repayment and are currently working in underserved communities across the country.
Stephanie Chen, MSN-NP/MPH ’09 and Amanda Roesch, MSN-NP/MPH ’09, traveled to the West Coast for their assignments at Northeast Medical Services in San Francisco, CA and the Sea Mar Community Health Center in Vancouver, WA respectively. Jennifer Allard, MSN/MPH ’09, stayed in Baltimore and is working at the People’s Community Health Center.
Faculty member Shirley Van Zandt, MS, MPH, CRNP, serves as the campus ambassador for NHSC and encourages interested students to apply for loan repayment. “This program fits the goals of many students who are focused on underserved communities. Often, students who graduate from the SON plan to work in the types of sites the NHSC is trying to staff,” she explains. “With the increase in the national need for primary care providers, the School’s nurse practitioner alumni are in a great position to have their loans repaid in return for their service to the underserved through the NHSC.”
The deadline to apply for the NHSC Loan Repayment Program is May 26, 2011.