Greenwood resident receives scholarship to pursue primary care in rural Arkansas


Riley George of Greenwood, a senior medical student at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS), has been awarded a $20,000 Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield Primary Care Scholarship, which encourages aspiring physicians to pursue primary care practices in rural Arkansas.


George graduated from Greenwood High School and received his undergraduate degree from Harding University in Searcy. He intends to practice family medicine, preferably near his family in Greenwood and Searcy.


George has shadowed physicians in clinics in Arkansas, Kansas and Zambia. He has a deep interest in primary care and the benefits it can bring to a rural community.


"I have always had a passion for family medicine," George said. "I have come to love smaller communities and the camaraderie and unity that they can possess. The doctor-patient relationship can be so fulfilling in smaller communities, and the role of the physician in a rural area becomes much broader. Primary care is uniquely positioned to allow for the greatest long-term change in the health of a community through preventive medicine."


Arkansas Blue Cross, the state’s largest health insurer, established the endowed scholarship in 2010 with a $1 million gift to the UAMS Foundation Fund.


The scholarship is a part of a broad effort to produce more family medicine, general internal medicine and general pediatrics doctors for Arkansas, especially in rural areas where access to primary care is limited. More than two-thirds of Arkansas’ 75 counties include federally designated primary care health professional shortage areas.


Primary care physician shortages are expected to increase substantially as the state’s population continues to age and require more medical care, and as more Arkansans, now insured as a result of health insurance expansion, seek primary care services.


The College of Medicine, in partnership with the Division of Institutional Advancement, has worked with private partners such as Arkansas Blue Cross to increase scholarships. The high cost of medical school and the burden of educational debt that most medical students face when entering their postgraduate residency training can be a factor in choosing higher-paying specialties instead of primary care and practicing in rural areas. The average medical school debt of recent UAMS graduates who have educational debt is about $195,000.


"We greatly appreciate Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield’s continued investment in our students and our efforts to produce much-needed primary care physicians for rural Arkansas," said Dr. Christopher T. Westfall, M.D., executive vice chancellor of UAMS and dean of the College of Medicine. "Scholarships help reduce the burden of debt for future physicians like Riley who want to serve in Arkansas communities where they are needed most."


"Arkansas Blue Cross recognizes that people in rural parts of our state benefit greatly from better access to quality health care," said Curtis Barnett, Arkansas Blue Cross president and chief executive officer. "That is part of the motivation behind this scholarship. We congratulate Riley on receiving this award and commend him for his desire to serve rural Arkansans."


ATU-Ozark LPN program ranked among state’s best


Arkansas Tech University at Ozark is home to one of the top 10 licensed practical nursing programs in Arkansas for 2020 according to an independent review.


The recognition was bestowed by practicalnursing.org based upon testing pass rates by ATU-Ozark practical nursing program participants over the past five years.


ATU-Ozark’s program earned a score of 95.8 on a scale of 1-to-100.


ATU-Ozark offers a technical certificate in practical nursing and an Associate of Applied Science degree in allied health with an option in practical nursing.


The AAS in allied health with an option in practical nursing is intended to be a feeder program to the Associate of Applied Science in nursing program at the Ozark campus and the Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree program at the ATU campus in Russellville.


Learn more about the ATU-Ozark LPN program at atu.edu/ozark/academics/p-nurse.php.