US Public Health Service At Bassett
U.S. Public Health Service Captain Steven B. Auerbach, M.D. visited several of Bassett Healthcare Network’s community-based and school-based health centers recently to get a firsthand look at the services being provided. The facilities Auerbach spent time at are located in designated Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSA) and supported by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) in a variety of ways, including through the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) loan repayment program.
Bassett Healthcare Network has successfully recruited several providers to some of its rural community and school-based health centers through the NHSC program. Katherine Uphoff, a physician assistant (PA) at Bassett’s health center in Stamford, is a recipient of the NHSC loan repayment program.
“It was like a dream come true for me. When I was in PA school, I saw myself as being a family practice provider in a country setting, and I was able to attain that dream while also getting my student loans repaid. I moved to Stamford to be close to the clinic I work in. I’m very happy, enjoying the community, and I look forward to sticking around for a while.”
NHSC offers primary care medical, dental, and mental and behavioral health providers the opportunity to have their student loans repaid for serving communities in need. The loan repayment program requires the provider to work at least two years at the HPSA site they are recruited to serve at. But Dr. Auerbach says many providers stay beyond the two year commitment.
“Our studies show that when folks are done with their obligation period, about two thirds of them are still working in health professional shortage areas and about half of them at their original site. They become the bedrock of health care in those communities,” Auerbach said.
Dr. Sue Nelson says prior to recruiting Uphoff, she was the only Bassett provider at the Stamford family practice for nearly a year and the only physician practicing in the Town of Stamford. “There’s an enormous need for primary care providers, especially in rural areas. So I was extremely pleased when Katherine accepted the position at our health center in Stamford, and she was able to do it because of the NHSC loan repayment program. That really speaks to its value as an incentive for providers to work in underserved communities.”
Auerbach notes that, “Just having insurance, whether it’s public or private insurance, doesn’t guarantee a person access to care. There aren’t enough providers who want to practice in rural areas and inner cities, or who take Medicaid or Medicare, or who offer a discounted fee for folks without any insurance at all. The NHSC program and other programs of the Health Resources and Services Administration (www.hrsa.gov) help to provide for actual access to services.”
To learn more about the NHSC, visit http://nhsc.hrsa.gov/ and to learn more about Bassett Healthcare Network, visit www.bassett.org.