Primary Care Physician Pipeline Bolstered by New UArizona Scholarship

Monday, February 17, 2020

TUCSON, Ariz. - The outlook for future primary care access in Arizona improved in January when 29 students from the University of Arizona Colleges of Medicine in Tucson and Phoenix became the first recipients of the new UArizona Primary Care Physician Scholarship Program.

Developed in partnership with and funded by a portion of $8 million approved by the Arizona Legislature and Gov. Doug Ducey, the scholarship program tackles the state’s primary care physician shortage by creating opportunities for a new generation of primary care physicians.

Arizona State Sen. Heather Carter, EdD, associate director for the UArizona Center for Rural Health, championed the scholarship program.

“This is the first time I’ve been able to witness an idea go from concept development, to introduction, to legislation, to making it to the state budget, to appropriating state dollars, to be handed off to the university, to be created as a program, to actually awarding the scholarship in one year,” she said. “That is light speed for government.”

Starting with the spring semester, the remainder of each recipient’s medical school tuition will be covered in full. In exchange, these future physicians have committed to practice primary care in a rural or urban underserved area of Arizona for up to four years, depending on how many years they receive the scholarship.

Under the new scholarship program’s guidelines, a primary care physician is someone who successfully has completed medical school at UArizona and completed residency or fellowship training in one of the following specialties: family medicine, general internal medicine, geriatric medicine, general pediatrics, psychiatry, or obstetrics and gynecology. 

Daniel Derksen, MD, director of the Center for Rural Health, is a family medicine physician who understands the reality of medical student debt.

“We designed the scholarship program to align with individuals who grew up in rural and urban underserved areas,” Derksen said. “Many of these students wish to return to these areas and work in primary care practice. Students are free to pursue their interests in primary care without having the anxiety of a debt burden they can’t pay off.” 

About 100 students from both colleges could benefit once the scholarship program is fully implemented.

Scholarship Recipients  

Students were required to demonstrate their commitment to work in underserved communities in Arizona as part of the application process. Many of the recipients want to provide consistent and culturally sensitive health care in Arizona communities that need it most, including their hometowns. 

  • Fourth-year College of Medicine - Tucson student Cazandra Zaragoza, MPH, is a graduate of the Pre-Medical Admissions Pathway program. Zaragoza’s biological mother was a single woman who was about to die from a treatable illness in rural Mexico when she put her children up for adoption. Unable to access health care, she died three months later. As a primary care physician, Zaragoza intends to provide excellent health care to all individuals, especially those—like her mother—who are most underserved. “There are definitely people throughout Arizona who have considered studying medicine because they want to come back to their communities to serve, but they don’t know how they’re going to pay for it,” she says. “The need [for primary care physicians] in Arizona is great, and I am committed to being part of the solution.” 
  • Growing up in an underserved area of Phoenix, second-year College of Medicine - Tucson student Caylan Moore was inspired to help others by his grandmother’s dedication and commitment to their community. “I have learned the power my background brings to a patient encounter,” he says. “I am so excited to return to Maryvale one day to practice. I want to be a living representation that no matter where you come from, you can achieve any dream.” 
  • First-year College of Medicine - Phoenix student Abigail Solorio, a graduate of the Pathway Scholars Program, grew up in an underserved Phoenix community and witnessed health care disparities firsthand. She distinctly remembers never seeing a doctor that looked like her or her family.  “I want to become the physician whom I wish my family had when they were in need of care,” she says. “To be able to commit to serving in Arizona is very exciting. This is a passion of mine. This is why I went into medicine.” She is also pursuing a master’s degree in public health. 

The eight College of Medicine – Phoenix recipients are: Kathryn Blevins, Merrion Dawson, Megan Kelly, Alicia Leslie, George Nguyen, Jasper Puracan, Abigail Solorio and C. Maryssa Spires.  

The 21 College of Medicine – Tucson recipients are: Oumou Bah, Dawn Bowling, Joshua Calton, Guadalupe Davila, Layne Genco, Raymond Larez, Julia Liatti, Gabrielle Milillo, Radu Moga, Caylan Moore, Isabel Nava-Marquez, China Rae Newman, Leila Noghrehchi, Kaloni Philipp, Cara Popeski, Anna Ressel, Naiby Rodriguez, Hannah Shy, Beverley Trutter, Berna Villanueva and Cazandra Zaragoza



Media Kit:    

Scholarship Video Recap:
Several scholarship recipients available for interview are featured in this video.

NOTE: Other photos/graphics/logos available upon request.

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The University of Arizona Health Sciences is the statewide leader in biomedical research and health professions training. The UArizona Health Sciences includes the Colleges of Medicine (Tucson and Phoenix), Nursing, Pharmacy, and the 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 Health Sciences reaches across the state of Arizona and the greater Southwest to provide cutting-edge health education, research and community outreach services. A major economic engine, the Health Sciences employs nearly 5,000 people, has approximately 900 faculty members and garners $200 million in research grants and contracts annually. For more information: (Follow us: Facebook | Twitter | YouTube | LinkedIn | Instagram).

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