RANCHO CUCAMONGA, Calif., July 28, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — In collaboration with three Inland Empire universities, 50 local medical students were awarded scholarships from Inland Empire Health Plan’s (IEHP) Healthcare Scholarship Fund (HSF), totaling $40 million over the next 5 years. The scholarship helps local students have greater access to medical school education and aims to address the ongoing physician shortage in the region.
IEHP has partnered with California State University, Riverside; California University of Science and Medicine; and Loma Linda University to support, develop and provide needed physicians, specialists and behavioral health practitioners to the Inland Empire, increasing the current ratio of 35 primary care and specialty physicians per 100,000 people in California to the recommended ratio of 60-80 physicians per 100,000 people.
“Growing up in the Inland Empire, I dreamed of working with the underserved,” said Kathy Gomez, scholarship recipient from CSU Riverside. “This fueled my dedication to become a doctor. I understand the culture and know the social resources to help the underserved. As a licensed physician, I will further my impact in the Inland Empire, and I will continue my community outreach and mentorship in the region I call home.”
The scholarship’s inaugural cohort brings together a diverse group of students from the Inland Empire. More than 30 recipient students grew up in the Inland Empire and more than 50% are first generation medical students and grew up in low-income households.
“This scholarship takes an insurmountable amount of stress and constant worry I have had growing up and throughout my education such as, ‘How can I afford that?’ and ‘Do I really need to buy that textbook?'” said Diana Martinez, scholarship recipient from CUSM. “These life circumstances ignited my passion to serve those in disadvantaged communities, which I interacted with throughout my educational career.”
In the Inland Empire, the average four-year medical degree costs $276,800—about half the price of an average California home in 2020. “Because of rising tuition rates, medical school is out of reach for so many,” said Jarrod McNaughton, IEHP chief executive officer. “This has prevented local students who know and love the I.E. from reaching their goals. As a community-based health plan, we want to remove this financial barrier and connect them to educational opportunities that also benefit our community.”
Through the scholarship fund, aspiring healthcare professionals will be guided through the system and connected to the health plan’s provider network. This allows students to pursue successful careers in healthcare immediately after graduation to help support the region’s growing population.
“The reality is, we need these students just as much as they need us,” said McNaughton. “Our Healthcare Scholarship Fund allows us to take the needs of our region and students to build one sustainable solution, serving both parties and ultimately facilitating communities where optimal care and vibrant health can be achieved for years to come.”
Partnering universities facilitate the application process with the contingency that students agree to practice medicine in the Inland Empire for at least five years after graduation. To learn more, visit iehp.org.
With a mission to heal and inspire the human spirit, Inland Empire Health Plan (IEHP) is one of the top 10 largest Medicaid health plans and the largest not-for-profit Medicare-Medicaid plan in the country. In its 25th year, IEHP is supporting more than 1.4 million residents in Riverside and San Bernardino counties who are enrolled in Medicaid or Cal MediConnect Plans and has a growing network of over 7,300 providers and nearly 2,500 Team Members. Through dynamic partnerships with Providers and Community Organizations, paired with award-winning service and a tradition of quality care, IEHP is fully committed to their vision: We will not rest until our communities enjoy optimal care and vibrant health. For more information, visit iehp.org.
SOURCE Inland Empire Health Plan (IEHP)