Touro University Nevada (Touro), home to Nevada’s largest physician assistant program, largest medical school, and only school of osteopathic medicine, is the recipient of the Scholarships for Disadvantaged Physician Assistant Students (SDS) grant in Southern Nevada.
Totaling $3.25 million over five years, the grant is funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) and will provide scholarships to first- and second-year Physician Assistant Studies students at Touro.
The SDS grant aims to increase diversity among physician assistant students who have demonstrated financial need.
The program’s goal is to increase the number of Physician Assistant (PA) practitioners working in underserved communities. Touro received $650,000 a year for five years, allowing the University to provide ten $35,000 scholarships to first-year PA students and ten $30,000 scholarships to second-year PA students each year.
According to Philip Tompkins, dean of students for Touro University Nevada, the school’s recruitment of underserved students has grown from 14 to 19 percent over the past three years, and there’s no slowdown in sight.
In addition to identifying a diverse PA student population, the grant selection also took into consideration the size of the medically underserved population in the region.
Unlike other PA programs in the country, Touro’s PA program requires a one-month community medicine clinical rotation, giving students first-hand experience and exposure to its medically underserved communities and populations.
One grant recipient is Las Vegas native, Jennifer Zhu, who said the grant is helping her pursue her medical career in family medicine. “Having this grant will allow me to have additional resources that will help me broaden my clinical skills and knowledge,” she said.
Another recipient, Kris Thanesjesdapong, was born and raised in Thailand but has lived in the valley since 2004 and dreams of one day working in emergency or primary care. He shared, “coming from an underserved community in Thailand, I experienced horrific effects of limited medical care first-hand when my grandma became sick and ultimately passed from her illness. Her death made me realize how precious life is, and I want to do all I can to save lives.”
Last year, Touro was also awarded the Garrett Lee Smith Suicide Prevention Grant by the Department of Health & Human Services through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Totaling $306,000, the grant is awarded over three years and supports Touro’s "Raising Resiliency Together" program that provides medical and graduate students with counseling and mental health treatment services to help them deal with the extreme stresses and pressures they face.
The grant allows Touro to create a more robust network of resources, introduce a coaching program for underserved students to build self-monitoring and self-improvement skills, fill two positions and conduct more screenings and assessments.