Touro University Nevada Receives $3.25 Million From Dept. of Health and Human Services to Fund Physician Assistant Student Scholarships

Touro University Nevada was named the recipient of the Scholarships for Disadvantaged Physician Assistant Students (SDS) grant in Southern Nevada, which provides $3.25 million over five years.

The grant is funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) and will provide scholarships to first- and second-year PA students.

The SDS grant aims to increase diversity among physician assistant students who have demonstrated financial need. The program’s goal is to increase the number of PA practitioners working in underserved communities. Touro received $650,000 a year for five years, allowing the University to provide ten $35,000 scholarships to first-year PA students and ten $30,000 scholarships to second-year PA students each year.

“Thanks to this grant, dozens of deserving physician assistant students from underprivileged backgrounds will be able to pursue higher education in Nevada,” said U.S. Congresswoman Susie Lee. “If you see it, you can be it— that is what this grant is all about. I am so proud to have an institution like Touro University Nevada in my district — an institution that invests in the future of our community. Thank you for helping our students and holding Nevada’s higher education to the standard our students deserve.” 

“Too often, economic circumstances and financial backgrounds dictate who can fulfill their dreams of earning a degree,” said Dr. Phil Tobin, Director of the School of Physician Assistant Studies. “With this scholarship, many of our students with financial need can focus on what matters most – the coursework needed to complete their physician assistant studies. In turn, they can prepare themselves to join a profession growing in demand, particularly in underserved communities – truly coming full circle with the goal of this grant.”

According to Dr. Philip Tompkins, Dean of Students, the school’s recruitment of underserved students has grown from 14 to 19 percent over the past three years, and there is no slowdown in sight.

“The current global pandemic has impacted every aspect of our lives, including job loss for thousands of men and women across the nation. This grant is exactly what we need to encourage students to pursue their dream of becoming a physician assistant and inspire them to help better meet demand for skilled medical professionals, without financial burden,” he said.

In addition to identifying the disadvantaged PA student population, the grant selection also took into consideration the size of the medically underserved population in the region. Unlike other PA programs in the country, Touro’s PA program requires a one-month community medicine clinical rotation, giving students first-hand experience and exposure to its medically underserved communities and populations.

One grant recipient is Las Vegas native, Jennifer Zhu, who said the grant is helping her pursue her medical career in family medicine.

Another recipient, Kris Thanesjesdapong, was born and raised in Thailand but has lived in the valley since 2004 and dreams of one day working in emergency or primary care.

“Coming from an underserved community in Thailand, I experienced horrific effects of limited medical care first-hand when my grandma became sick and ultimately passed from her illness. Her death made me realize how precious life is, and I want to do all I can to save lives,” he said. 

Malcolm Douglas, originally from Brooklyn, N.Y., said working with medical underserved communities (MUCs) has driven his passion to work in healthcare.

Malcolm Douglas, PA Class of 2021

“The purpose of this grant is to increase the number of healthcare providers working with medically underserved communities and in primary care settings, and I am thankful to be a grant recipient,” he said. “MUCs are defined as areas/populations designated by HRSA as having too few primary care providers, high infant mortality, high poverty, or a high elderly population. Growing up in a medically underserved community, I’ve witnessed firsthand how MUCs can affect communities and families as a whole. I am honored to receive this award and help be a part of alleviating the need for healthcare providers in these areas. This HRSA grant helps bring me one step closer to my goal of practicing in MUCs when I graduate.”