The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) has awarded The University of Texas at El Paso more than $7.7 million to prepare the next generation of bicultural health professionals to improve the quality of care for underserved populations in the Paso del Norte region.
The social work, occupational therapy and physical therapy graduate programs in the College of Health Sciences each will receive more than $2.5 million over the next four years from HRSA’s Scholarships for Disadvantaged Students (SDS) program to fund scholarships for underrepresented minority students with financial need.
“This major investment by the Health Resources and Services Administration strengthens UTEP’s commitment to provide low-resourced students access to outstanding health professions programs,” said UTEP President Diana Natalicio. “UTEP students’ huge talent, motivation and life experiences are seldom combined with the resources required to finance their education. The financial support provided by these generous scholarships will enable aspiring healthcare specialists to pursue rewarding careers and thereby augment the bicultural diversity of the professional workforce in our region.”
HRSA, an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, provides funds to accredited U.S. health professions schools to increase the diversity of the health professions workforce and the number of providers working in underserved communities like El Paso County.
Since July, HRSA has distributed more than $149 million in new awards through 12 workforce programs, including the SDS program, which helps 78 health professions schools provide scholarships to disadvantaged students. Besides UTEP, only one other occupational therapy program and one other physical therapy program received funding.
“These grants will provide much needed financial support to a worthy cause – delivering value to the community and society overall,” said Osama Mikhail, Ph.D., College of Health Sciences interim dean.
This is the first year that students in the Doctor of Physical Therapy and Master of Social Work programs will benefit from the SDS program.
Since 2012, the Master of Occupational Therapy program has awarded scholarships to 77 students. About 90 percent of these occupational therapy scholarship recipients are from El Paso County and are now practicing in high-needs communities across the region.
The scholarships are intended to cover students’ full cost of attendance, including tuition, books, living expenses and related program expenses.
The funds will enable Andrea Goche, a first-year physical therapy student, to emerge from graduate school with less debt, allowing her to pursue a residency program after graduation and obtain additional training in a specialty area.
“This scholarship has opened doors for me because I’ll be able to pursue more professional development opportunities and become a better provider,” said Goche, who plans to practice in El Paso. “It’s great to be able to continue my education.”
UTEP’s College of Health Sciences prepares bilingual and bicultural health professionals in social work, public health, kinesiology, clinical laboratory science, physical therapy, occupational therapy, rehabilitation counseling and speech-language pathology.