Helping Disadvantaged Students Become PAs

UT Southwestern’s Carolyn Bradley-Guidry, DrPH, PA-C, has an impressive track record when it comes to securing grants — especially those designed to help the disadvantaged — so it should come as no surprise that she and her team were recently awarded a $3.24 million grant to support diversity initiatives at their PA program.

The five-year grant from the U.S. Department of Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) as part of the Scholarships for Disadvantaged Students Program will be used to provide scholarships to students from educationally and environmentally disadvantaged backgrounds in the UT Southwestern PA program. Students from these backgrounds include those who are the first in their family to attend college, those who live in an area designated as a health professional shortage area or a medically underserved area, and students whose primary language is not English

Bradley-Guidry, who is the grant project director and director of diversity and inclusion in the School of Health Professions at UT Southwestern, said she was overwhelmed with joy and excitement when she heard the news about the grant award. “I am a first-generation college student, and I know there are other students out there like me with the aptitude for success — they just need the opportunity. I am grateful that we will be able to provide funds to reduce the financial burden on students from disadvantaged backgrounds.”

Grant funds of $648,000 will be awarded as scholarships to 24 students each year for a total of 120 students over the five-year grant period. The scholarships will cover tuition, fees, and living expenses for PA students at UT Southwestern, starting this summer. Over the past 3 years, more than 30% of the PA program’s enrolled students and graduates have been from disadvantaged backgrounds. “By removing the financial barriers and cultivating a passion for primary care and underserved populations, we hope to ultimately increase the number of primary care providers and reduce health disparities in communities of greatest need,” said Bradley-Guidry.

“This is a great step forward,” said Temple Howell-Stampley, MD, MBA, chair and program director for the Department of Physician Assistant Studies at the UT Southwestern School of Health Professions. “At a time when racial tension and unrest are high, and with the loss of more than 123,000 lives to a pandemic that has further exposed the disparities that exist in underserved and underrepresented communities, receipt of this federal funding comes at a critical time in our history.” 

Other members of the grant team include Veronica Coleman, MPAS, PA-C, director of admissions/recruitment and retention specialist; Isela Perez, admissions coordinator/data specialist; and Lori Millner, PhD, former director of the Dallas-Ft. Worth Area Health Education Center, grant consultant. The team doesn’t anticipate any difficulty finding students in need of these scholarships. In conjunction with awarding the scholarships, the faculty and staff will be increasing their recruitment efforts at historically black colleges and universities and Hispanic-serving institutions. They are also creating an evaluation and advisory committee for the project with representatives from different levels of education and primary care providers who are serving underserved communities.

“This grant will change the lives of students, who will be critical in closing the health care gap as future health care professionals,” said Howell-Stampley. “The UT Southwestern PA program is very grateful for Dr. Bradley-Guidry’s efforts and is excited for what lies ahead.”