|Physician Assistant Program receives funds to improve care for underserved, high-risk patients |
The needs of the most medically underserved and vulnerable people are at the center of a project launched by the Physician Assistant (PA) Program at the School of Medicine and Health Sciences.
The three-year, $463,000 grant from the federal Health Resources and Services Administration aims to enhance the education of PA students to deliver primary care which meets the special needs of five segments of the population:
- Families with children with disabilities, including blindness and physical disabilities
- Elderly living alone in rural areas
- Farm and ranch families without health care insurance
- American Indian youth who, as a group, have a high rate of suicide
- Veterans returning from military duty with physical or mental disabilities
Focus groups representing each of the targeted populations will be conducted statewide in North Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Arkansas and Oklahoma, according to Mary Ann Laxen, director of the PA program and the grant’s principle investigator.
“What we learn from the focus groups will be used to identify and prioritize the special needs of these populations,” Laxen says, “and to help us to develop learning tools, such as case studies, to better prepare them to provide effective health care.” Sixty-five students will participate in the enhanced training.
The project addresses “so many pressing issues in health care today,” Laxen says. “We have young veterans returning from the war, many of them right here in North Dakota, and, as people live longer and want to remain in their homes, more elderly living alone in rural areas.
“The suicide rate on our state’s Native American reservations is tragic,” she adds. “Also, because of our current economic situation, so many people have dropped or lost their health insurance. These issues are on the forefront of our health care system today.”
The grant is titled “Educational Training Modules for Physician Assistant Students Serving High Risk Populations in Rural and Underserved Regions of the United States.” Faculty members of the PA program plan to share new knowledge gained from the project with colleagues throughout the country.
The UND PA program prepares clinically competent physician assistants, working with and under the supervision of physicians, to provide primary health care for the people in North Dakota and other rural and underserved areas of the United States. Its goals are to alleviate the shortages of primary care providers and to provide access to comprehensive and affordable health care services to rural and underserved populations.
The majority of PA students who come from rural and underserved areas, after graduation, have gone on to establish their practices in primary care in such areas. The program’s faculty has educated and trained experienced health care providers for more than 35 years.
-- Pamela Knudson, Director of Public Affairs , Medical School Office of Public Affairs , firstname.lastname@example.org, 777-2733