Two UA Health Sciences Grants Totaling $3.9M Help Ensure Quality Health Care for Arizonans in Rural, Underserved Communities

Jul 18, 2018

The University of Arizona Health Sciences has been awarded two grants totaling $3.9 million for efforts that will help improve health care access for Arizona’s rural and underserved communities by providing hands-on, community-based immersion training opportunities for health professions students.

“These grants represent the mission and core of our services at the Arizona Area Health Education Centers,” said Sally Reel, PhD, RN, FNP, BC, FAAN, FAANP, UA associate vice president of health sciences interprofessional education, collaboration and community engagement, and program director and principal investigator for both grants.

“Our students, who will become future clinicians, will be practice-ready and able to provide quality care to our rural and underserved communities and populations,” said Dr. Reel, who also is a University Distinguished Outreach Professor, a clinical professor at the UA College of Nursing and director of the Arizona Area Health Education Centers (AzAHEC) program.

The Arizona Area Health Education Centers and Advanced Nursing Education Workforce grants will total $2.5 million over five years and $1.4 million over two years, respectively. Both are funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

“Thanks to the efforts of Dr. Reel and her AzAHEC and UA College of Nursing teams, the programs funded by these grants will enable the UA to recruit and retain highly skilled health professionals who are committed to providing the highest level of care and are trained to meet the needs of our most underserved populations,” said UA President Robert C. Robbins, MD. “The impact of this important work will be felt all across the state.”

Arizona Area Health Education Centers

The AzAHEC project will develop and enhance health education and training networks within communities and academic institutions to increase diversity among health professionals, broaden the distribution of the health workforce, enhance health-care quality, and improve health-care delivery to Arizona’s rural and underserved areas and populations.

The award provides support to maintain, develop and enhance strategic partnerships through five regional centers covering all 15 Arizona counties, as well as 22 federally recognized Native American tribes. Now in its 24th year of model federal Area Health Education Centers funding (and sustained funding since its inception in 1984), the Arizona Area Health Education Centers program is a critical health professions workforce development program for Arizona’s rural and urban underserved communities, addressing all levels of health-care career development. With funds from the grant and the Arizona State Lottery, the program has been working to recruit and provide training for high school students and pre-health professions undergraduates, creating a health professions pipeline to help ensure health care for generations to come.  

The grant also provides field placements and clinical rotations for health professions students, particularly those enrolled in the Rural Health Professions Program at the UA, ASU and NAU, as well as health professions students from other public and private schools within Arizona and throughout the nation.

This funding also allowed creation of the AHEC Scholars Program, a two-year interprofessional program comprising lectures and community-based training conducted in rural and/or underserved settings within each of the AzAHEC five regional centers. To become an AHEC Scholar, students from the UA, Arizona State University and Northern Arizona University must apply and be accepted into their participating college’s Rural Health Professions Program. A $2,000 stipend is provided for students participating as AHEC Scholar fellows.

The funding also provides continuing education for currently practicing health professionals within the state.

The five-year grant continues through August 2022 and includes a statewide outcome-focused evaluation plan.

Advanced Nursing Education Workforce

The Advanced Nursing Education Workforce (ANEW) award will increase the number of family, pediatric and psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners prepared to meet the primary care needs of Arizona’s rural and underserved communities. The award provides eligible students pursuing Doctor of Nursing Practice degrees at the UA College of Nursing as much as $22,000 a year to meet all or part of the costs of tuition, fees, books and reasonable living expenses. The grant runs through June 2019.

This year, 18 recipients were selected and placed in clinical training sites throughout Arizona, and 23 students recently were named recipients for the 2019 grant.

As part of their curriculum, participating students complete a supervised clinical practice rotation for a minimum of three months within a collaborating regional AzAHEC and local clinical affiliates serving medically underserved communities. Clinical sites chosen to best prepare students for practice with underserved populations in 2018 included 11 sites within medically underserved communities, eight in rural communities, five at the Arizona-Mexico border and one in a Native American community.

About the University of Arizona Health Sciences

The University of Arizona Health Sciences is the statewide leader in biomedical research and health professions training. The UA Health Sciences includes the UA Colleges of Medicine (Phoenix and Tucson), Nursing, Pharmacy and Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health, with main campus locations in Tucson and the growing Phoenix Biomedical Campus in downtown Phoenix. From these vantage points, the UA Health Sciences reaches across the state of Arizona and the greater Southwest to provide cutting-edge health education, research, patient care and community outreach services. A major economic engine, the UA Health Sciences employs approximately 4,000 people, has approximately 800 faculty members and garners more than $140 million in research grants and contracts annually. For more information: (Follow us: Facebook | Twitter | YouTube | LinkedIn | Instagram)

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