Five students in Feinberg’s Physician Assistant (PA) Program have been awarded scholarships from the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) Scholarship Program.
The program, supported by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Resources and Services Administration, awards academic scholarships to students pursuing primary healthcare training who commit to a minimum of two years of full-time service in geographic areas or healthcare facilities in the U.S. with limited access to healthcare services.
The awardees are first-year PA students Dalal El-Barbarawi, Amaya Farrell, Namyr Hernandez, Gideon Lebowitz and Myra Zhan. This is the first time five students from Feinberg’s PA Program have been selected to be part of the program in a single application cycle.
“Northwestern University’s PA Program faculty and staff are excited to learn that five of our first-year students have been awarded the NHSC scholarship. This is an amazing achievement and is a testament to these students’ dedication to meeting the primary care needs of communities situated in health professional shortage areas,” said James Gunn, MMS, PA-C, director of the PA Program and associate professor of Medical Education.
Program applicants are evaluated based on their demonstrated interest in providing primary care and their commitment to serving underserved populations. Hernandez, a student from Puerto Rico, said that she was inspired to apply for this scholarship because the NHSC mission aligns with her plans once she graduates from PA school.
“Growing up in Puerto Rico I was always outraged at the fact that it took six months or more just to get an appointment for primary care,” Hernandez said. “As a practicing PA, I want to work to fill some of the gaps that exist in primary care—particularly in underserved communities—so that patients can have more frequent access to primary care and health maintenance.”
Zhan, a student from Chino Hills, Calif., was inspired to apply for the NHSC Scholarship after hearing about it from past and current scholars.
“I knew it would be an invaluable experience for me. I have worked with multiple medically underserved communities and one of the many reasons I wanted to become a PA was so that I could have a direct role in breaking down the many barriers to quality healthcare for the individuals who need it most,” Zhan said. “As a primary care provider, I can provide this continuity of care for my patients, and I know my experiences as an NHSC scholar will be filled with many great learning opportunities as I embark on my PA journey.”
El-Barbarawi served as a medical assistant and vaccine coordinator in a medically underserved primary care clinic in Chicago for four years prior to beginning PA school and during undergrad. Driven by personal interactions with patients, she began a community service project called Lower Your A1C, designed specifically for patients in underserved communities.
“The goal of the program is to decrease Hemoglobin A1C levels in patients with diabetes through patient education in an effort to control the detrimental health effects of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus and ensure better health outcomes for patients,” El-Barbarawi said.
Lebowitz, a student from Albany, Calif., has spent his entire healthcare experience in primary care and is interested in incorporating preventative health principles to help patients better manage their own health, and improve the health of communities on a larger scale.
“I worked in various roles at a community health clinic, and in my time there I saw so many people affected by chronic conditions directly related to the social determinants of health,” Lebowitz said.
Farrell, a student from Michigan, first learned about the NHSC Scholarship from a previous recipient and said she was ecstatic to discover that there was a scholarship to support students like her.
“After taking a course called ‘Biology of Poverty’ at the University of Michigan as an undergraduate, I was dedicated to working in primary care in medically underserved communities. Both the course, and my experience working at a 501(c) affordable student housing non-profit during the pandemic, showed me how important access to primary care is,” Farrell said.
“The PA Program is proud to now have eight total NHSC scholars in its first- and second-year classes, an accomplishment that reflects its mission to prepare its graduates to provide significant contributions to their communities,” Gunn said.