Five osteopathic medical students at the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine (LECOM) have been chosen for scholarships through a program designed to increase the supply and retention of physicians in medically underserved areas.
The students, Samuel Sawyer, Catherine Conway, Gabriella Chibbaro, Adrien Ennis, and Anthony Cocciolone, are the first recipients of the LECOM and Highmark Student-To-Practice Academic Scholarship. Funded by Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield, the scholarship provides each recipient $20,000 for tuition.
The Student-To-Practice Academic Scholarship is made possible through Highmark’s commitment of $500,000 over five years to create scholarships for LECOM Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) graduates. Scholarship recipients agree to practice in primary care in areas in Pennsylvania and Appalachia designated by Highmark as having physician shortages. That requirement is significant, considering Pennsylvania ranks tenth in the United States in terms of its number of such areas, according to the Henry J. Kaiser Foundation. Pennsylvania also has one of the largest rural populations in the United States.
For Conway, a third-year osteopathic medical student and native of West Mifflin, Pa., the LECOM and Highmark Student-To-Practice Academic Scholarship is ideal based on her career goals. “I’ve chosen to pursue primary care because I enjoy the interaction with patients and being able to treat the whole person in the osteopathic philosophy,” she said.
Sawyer also decided to apply for the scholarship because of his interest in primary care. He will be following in the footsteps of his grandfather, who was a family physician. “When I applied to medical school, it was always with the goal of going into primary care,” Sawyer said. “I like being able to work closely with patients.”
Cocciolone remembers how his late father, a dentist, enjoyed getting to know patients on a personal level. As a primary care physician, he, too, hopes to develop similar relationships. “The LECOM and Highmark Student-To-Practice Academic Scholarship is very symbolic to me, because my father taught me the importance of community in practice through his work as a dentist,” he said. “I’m honored and grateful to be chosen for this scholarship because it will allow me to practice in underserved areas.”
Silvia Ferretti, DO, LECOM’s Provost, Senior Vice President and Dean of Academic Affairs, said the scholarship program fits perfectly with LECOM’s mission of educating primary care physicians and providing care in the areas where it is needed the most. “Our partnership with Highmark represents an important step toward increasing access to care,” Dr. Ferretti said. “We’re very grateful for the company’s generosity on behalf of our students and for its continued commitment to addressing primary care shortages.”
“At Highmark, our commitment to ensuring our members have access to high-quality care extends to all the communities we serve, whether they are urban, suburban, or rural,” said Donald R. Fischer, MD, Highmark Senior Vice President and Chief Medical Officer. “We are pleased to award these scholarships to five promising students, who will go on to practice primary care in the areas that need it most.”
More about the LECOM and Highmark Student-To-Practice Academic Scholarship
Administered by LECOM, the program provides support to students who seek financial assistance to complete the Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) degree requirements. Scholarships are awarded through a highly competitive selection process overseen by a committee of senior leaders from LECOM and Highmark. Awards are based upon several criteria, including academic performance, a commitment to practicing in primary care, and prior experience working with underserved populations.
More about the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine
The Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine (LECOM) is the nation’s largest medical college, and with Millcreek Community Hospital and the Clinical Practices of LECOM forms the only osteopathic Academic Health Center in the United States. LECOM is at the core of this highly innovative medical education system and strives to add to the quality of life of its neighbors by bringing total health care to the community. LECOM is preparing the next generation of physicians, dentists, and pharmacists at its campuses in Erie and Greensburg, Pa. and in Bradenton, Fla.
More about Highmark Inc.
Highmark Inc. is among the largest health insurers in the United States and the fourth-largest Blue Cross and Blue Shield-affiliated company. Highmark and its diversified businesses and affiliates operate health insurance plans in Pennsylvania, Delaware and West Virginia that serve 5.2 million members. Its diversified health businesses serve group customer and individual health needs across the United States through dental insurance, vision care, and other related health businesses. Highmark is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, an association of independent Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies.