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ATSU-ASHS physician assistant department awarded two HRSA grants

A.T. Still University-Arizona School of Health Sciences’ (ATSU-ASHS) physician assistant (PA) program has received two grant awards from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Together, these two grants will help ATSU-ASHS expand healthcare to underserved populations and start a PA pipeline from rural and disadvantaged communities.

The first grant awarded will provide $3 million to fund the project, “Recruiting, Retaining, and Placing Disadvantaged Students as Primary Care PAs in Underserved Communities.” The project will focus on increasing diversity through available scholarships.

“This grant will provide needed scholarship money to help offset the cost of education for future PA students from disadvantaged backgrounds,” Michelle DiBaise, DHSc, PA-C, DFAAPA, PA department chair, professor, ATSU-ASHS and HRSA grant project director, said. “In addition to providing scholarship money, our PA program will increase the number of memorandums of understanding with historically Black colleges, Hispanic serving institutions, and colleges that serve American Indians to form Pipeline to Practice (P2P) scholars.”

Deanna Hunsaker, DHEd, MBA, assistant vice president, enrollment services, and Clinton Normore, MBA, vice president, diversity & inclusion, will both serve as deputy directors for the Scholarships for Disadvantaged Students (SDS) grant. Faculty and staff members from University partnerships, Student Affairs, Enrollment Services, and ATSU-ASHS, will be part of the SDS grant team.

“The SDS grant is an extension of our already existing Hometown Scholars (HTS) program, which aids health centers in identifying and nurturing qualified candidates committed to serving a community health center (CHC) as a PA,” Dr. DiBaise said. “Once accepted into the PA program, they complete their didactic year on campus and then return to their community campus for the entire clinical year.”

The second grant awarded will total more than $1.4 million over a five-year period, to fund the project, “Primary Care Physician Assistants as Change Leaders: Improving Access to Quality Behavioral and Mental Health Care for the Nation’s Rural and Underserved.” This project focuses on expanding partnerships with CHCs and expanding mental health education, primarily focusing on substance use disorders.

“The primary care training grant will augment the P2P and HTS programs by allowing us to recruit and onboard at least three new CHC partners, preferably in the same community as the P2P institutions,” Dr. DiBaise said.

Kim DeVore, MS, PA-C, director, physician assistant studies, will serve as deputy director for the primary care training grant. Annette Bettridge, MS, PA-C, FNP, assistant professor, ATSU-ASHS, will oversee the mental health components of this grant and additional support will be provided by ATSU-ASHS faculty members. Ann Lee Burch, PT, EdD, MPH, dean of ATSU-ASHS, will oversee the evaluation team for both grants.

“By decreasing the financial burden for students, we will be better able to place our graduates into primary care and behavioral health in rural and underserved communities thereby easing the disparities in access to care,” Dr. DiBaise said.

Required disclosure language: The Primary Care Training and Enhancement (PCTE) project, Federal Award Identification Number (FAIN) D57HP35365, is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of an award totaling $1,496,722. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by HRSA, HHS or the U.S. Government. 

Required disclosure language: The Scholarships for Disadvantaged Students (SDS) project, Federal Award Identification Number (FAIN) T08HP39312, is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of an award totaling $3,000,000. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by HRSA, HHS or the U.S. Government. 

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