New Grant Helps Launch Program to Assist Underserved Rural Populations of N.H. & Vermont

Nov 12, 2010

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PA News

A new half-million-dollar grant will provide a valuable boost to a new program designed to deliver better medical care to the elderly and disabled populations in rural areas of New Hampshire and Vermont.

Franklin Pierce University has received a $536,640 grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to help fund the university’s new Master of Physician Assistant Studies Program—a program established in November of 2009 with the explicit goal of serving the rural and underserved communities of Vermont and central and northern New Hampshire.

According to Lisa Southwick, director of the Master in Physician Assistant Studies (M.P.A.S.) Program at Franklin Pierce University, the new program’s location at the university’s West Lebanon, N.H. Graduate & Professional Studies center, is critical to the mission of the program. “With no physician assistant program in Vermont and the only New Hampshire PA program being in the southern tier of the state, the location of this program in the west central region of New Hampshire and only seven miles from the Vermont border makes it ideally situated to meet these needs,” she said.

“Through student-volunteer initiatives, community engagement, rural elementary education programs and other projects, Franklin Pierce University enjoys a deep tradition of serving rural communities in New England,” said Dr. James Birge, President of Franklin Pierce. “We are committed to helping those residents in rural areas of New Hampshire and Vermont gain better access to medical care, and I applaud the directors of this program in their successful work to secure support for this important initiative.”

The new program’s first cohort of 23 students includes 11 Vermonters and six students with ties to New Hampshire. The project’s primary goal is to increase opportunities for students to participate in clinical experiences in rural and underserved communities. “This will be accomplished through offering travel stipends for students training in these rural settings,” says Southwick, “and by providing training for clinical preceptors, and hiring a new half-time faculty member whose primary function will be to recruit and support clinical preceptors in the rural regions of New Hampshire and Vermont.”

Projections in demographic shifts by the U. S. Census Bureau reveal a significant increase in elderly populations in the years ahead. The burden of disability is likely to increase as our population grows older.

“In addition to increasing opportunities for students to engage with preceptors and patients in rural and underserved communities, this project will address health disparities experienced by patients with disabilities through improving the knowledge, skills and attitudes of physician assistant students and their preceptors in providing accessible care for patient with disabilities,” says Southwick.

For more information about Franklin Pierce University’s Master of Physician Assistant Studies program go to

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