Nearly $15 Million Awarded to PA Programs to Support Disadvantaged Students

PAEA would like to congratulate the PA programs at the University of Southern California, A.T. Still University, Touro University Nevada, UT Southwestern Medical Center, and Duke University, which were recently selected by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to receive the five-year Scholarships for Disadvantaged Students (SDS) grants.

“It was truly a team collaboration between many people and departments within the university that led to this successful outcome,” said Touro University Nevada Associate Professor Oksana Matvienko, PhD. “On average, 33% of all PA program graduates enter primary care. A key project goal for our program is to increase this percentage to at least 40% for SDS recipients.” She added that when deciding between students of equivalent qualities, Touro Nevada will offer preference to applicants with a stronger commitment to primary care.

“We are well aware of the need for a diverse health care workforce and meeting our community’s needs is one of our university’s core values,” noted Matvienko. “This grant will alleviate the financial burden of students from economically or environmentally disadvantaged backgrounds who might otherwise not be able to attend.”

Since the program’s original authorization in 1989, SDS has been a critical resource for PA students and one of the few federal investments available under Title VII of the Public Health Service Act to support the matriculation of disadvantaged students, many of whom are underrepresented minorities. Historically, PA programs have successfully competed for and received a number of awards each grant cycle. Besides PA programs, eligible SDS grant applicants include schools of allopathic and osteopathic medicine, nursing, social work, psychology, and public health, among others.

In addition to expanding access to health professions education for disadvantaged students, HRSA also leverages SDS to achieve other aspects of the agency’s strategic goals. Specifically, grantees are expected to use the support provided by the SDS grant to increase the number of their graduates practicing in primary care and in medically underserved communities.

“In addition to providing scholarship money to students from disadvantaged backgrounds, [the A.T. Still University PA program] will increase the number of MOUs with Historically Black Colleges, Hispanic-serving institutions, and colleges that serve American Indians to form Pipeline to Practice or P2P scholars,” said Program Director Michelle DiBaise, DHSc, PA-C. “This is an extension of our already existing Hometown Scholars (HTS) program, which aids health centers in identifying and nurturing qualified candidates committed to serving as PAs at a Community Health Center.”

 “The generous funding of Project 5 Rs by HRSA will enable the USC Primary Care PA program to recruit and retain even more students from disadvantaged and underrepresented communities, while reducing the cost of tuition for 20 disadvantaged students each year,” said Clinical Instructor of Family Medicine Chloe Powell, DMSc, PA-C. “We strive to return an increased number of graduates into primary care and medically underserved communities who are ready to address the mental health and substance-use disorders seen in our local patient population.”

Increasing funding during the annual budget and appropriations process for the Scholarships for Disadvantaged Students program has been a long-standing priority for PAEA’s Government Relations team. Through direct advocacy, coalition partnerships, and grassroots engagement, funding for the program has risen from $44.5 million in fiscal year 2015 to $51.5 million in fiscal year 2020 to support the education of a greater number of disadvantaged students.

Questions about PAEA’s advocacy related to SDS and other federal funding opportunities should be directed to Tyler Smith at