Scholarship program announced to attract more doctors to Eastern Kentucky

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A Medicaid managed-care provider will donate $180,000 to fund up to 30 scholarships aimed at getting more doctors and nurses to Eastern Kentucky.

WellCare of Kentucky announced the program Monday in Hazard.

The scholarships will be aimed at increasing the number of doctors and nurses in primary care and psychiatry, according to a news release.

Communities in rural Eastern Kentucky have struggled to attract an adequate number of primary-care providers.

“We know that access to doctors, nurses and other health care providers directly affects health outcomes,” said Bill Jones, president of WellCare of Kentucky. “When health care is in short supply or located far away, people are less likely to get routine screenings, tests and vaccinations — the type of care that can catch problems early or even prevent illness altogether.”

The company will work in conjunction with the medical and nursing schools at the University of Kentucky.

The scholarships will be awarded to students who show interest in working in medically underserved areas, said Dr. Kevin Pearce, the UK College of Medicine associate dean for Rural and Community Health.

“Kentucky has significant physician shortages, especially in our rural communities, and these scholarships will be helpful in mitigating our physician shortages,” Pearce said.

One program, Physicians for the Commonwealth, will give 20 one-year scholarships worth $5,000 to incoming medical students interested in UK’s Rural Physician Leadership program, according to the release.

That program offers students an opportunity to receive two years of clinical experience with a rural, underserved Kentucky population.

For more information or to apply, email Julie McDaniel at

The other program will provide $80,000 for 10 scholarships in UK’s Doctorate in Nursing Practice Program for nurses who plan on practicing in primary medicine or behavioral health in rural Kentucky.

Students interested in that program should contact Dr. Sheila Melander at

WellCare of Kentucky, a subsidiary of WellCare Health Plans in Tampa, Fla., has about 446,000 Medicaid members in Kentucky, as well as 9,000 Medicare Advantage members and 22,000 Medicare prescription drug plan members.