By Hayley Robb, Building Kentucky
Eastern Kentucky University and Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield Medicaid in Kentucky announced the expansion of the Anthem Medicaid Rural Scholarship to grow the number of frontline workers in the eastern region of the state and increase access to care and improve health equity for those living in Kentucky’s rural areas.
The scholarship fund of nearly $200,000 to EKU’s health science program will enable more students to provide care in underserved communities. Anthem Medicaid launched the scholarship in August 2021, granting eight students the opportunity to pursue health education and eventually serve in eastern Kentucky.
“Building relationships and trust is such a large part of health care,” said Dr. David McFaddin, Eastern Kentucky University President. “From relationships like the incredible one we’ve formed with Anthem Medicaid, to the relationship health care providers form with their patients, these connections are especially important. Students at EKU understand the communities in which they work, and this education will help them provide family, friends and neighbors with the best care possible.”
November 17 is recognized as National Rural Health Day, which acknowledges health care challenges faced in rural communities and celebrates current and future professionals working every day to improve health outcomes for all.
Compared to those in urban areas, thousands of rural Kentuckians lack access to locally available health care professionals and services, and face longer travel times to reach a hospital or health care facility.
According to the Kentucky Hospital Association’s 2022 Workforce Survey Report, Kentucky hospitals reported more than 13,000 vacancies across 13 professional groups in 2021. Nursing topped the list with 22% of all nursing positions unfilled, and another 14% of nurses near retirement. Staffing shortages, coupled with the state’s high prevalence of multiple chronic conditions, reinforce the need to expand the health care workforce in the Commonwealth.
“As part of our ongoing work to increase the health care workforce and close the gap in health disparities, we are proud to continue our work alongside Eastern Kentucky University to improve lives and communities in every area of the state,” said Leon Lamoreaux, President, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield Medicaid in Kentucky. “It’s vital our institutions on the front lines of health care education and training, especially in our rural and underserved communities, are well supported.”
In response to this need, the Anthem Medicaid Rural Medicine Scholarship will continue to provide primary care access for more than 1,000 Medicaid members per year per student.
This year’s Anthem Medicaid Rural Medicine Scholarship recipients are Breanna Goble, a Johnson County, Kentucky native, and Sara Cornelison, a Madison County, Kentucky, native.
“I am so grateful to be receiving the Anthem Medicaid Rural Medicine Scholarship,” said Cornelison. “This scholarship has helped me come close to achieving my dream of being a nurse practitioner. I hope to use my knowledge of rural health nursing to impact my community and communities around me that are underserved. Funding is a major issue for rural Kentuckians when it comes to education, so this scholarship opportunity is greatly appreciated and will be used to hopefully better these communities in the future.”
This announcement builds on Anthem Medicaid’s recent partnerships with several other institutions across the Commonwealth. In the last year, Anthem Medicaid has pledged more than half a million dollars to invest in the future of education and help increase access to health care throughout the Commonwealth.
Currently, Anthem Medicaid serves more than 178,285 individuals in the Commonwealth, including 42% of individuals who live in rural areas.