13 UAB medical students are bringing primary care to underserved areas—here’s how


Birmingham, UAB, scholarships
With a great education at UAB and a scholarship from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama, these 13 recipients are set up to do great work in rural communities.Photo via Jacob Blankenship for Bham Now

Did you know almost all counties in Alabama are in dire need of primary care physicians? Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama is attempting to change that fact by awarding 13 UAB medical students scholarships, on the condition they agree to practice as primary care or behavioral health physicians in underserved areas of Alabama after graduation.

The primary care health shortage is a real issue

Rural areas in Alabama need access to more primary care. Photo by CDC on Unsplash

According to both current and projected information from the Alabama Department of Public Health, rural areas can tend to have higher population growth, older residents and lower incomes than urban areas. Furthermore, a rural resident born today is expected to have a lifetime that is more than six months shorter than an urban resident born today.

These factors, among others, lead rural areas to have an intense need for primary care. Not only does it contribute to the community’s physical health, but having physicians causes the potential to boost the economy of the region by attracting more employers.

Addressing the issues

In order to bring better health care to these areas, the recipients of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama’s scholarships have agreed to bring their knowledge and expertise to underserved places in the state. Following their residency, these students will practice for at least three years in one of Alabama’s medically underserved counties.

“Primary care in Alabama is truly underserved. If you look at the health care shortages map provided by the Alabama Department of Public Health, you’ll see that almost all the counties in Alabama are in dire need of primary care physicians.

Scholarships like those provided by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama are a great way to encourage more students to pursue primary care as a career.”

Anmol Ahuja, 2020 Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama scholarship recipient

The company is investing in the future of their Primary Care Physician Network by making available $3.6 million in scholarships, over a five-year period, to the UAB School of Medicine.

Meet the students leading the charge

Anmol Ahuja is currently in her third-year rotations at Huntsville Hospital and just completed her internal medicine rotation. She’s now moved on to her family medicine rotation. Photo courtesy of Anmol Ahuja

The scholarship will relieve the burden on recipients’ school debt and allow them to direct more energy toward their studies and purpose both in school and out. It also enables future doctors to follow their goals and aid communities who need it most.

Yesenia Lopez became interested in medicine after working at a family medicine clinic during high school. Throughout her college years, she volunteered at The Spirit of Luke, a mobile health clinic that provides free healthcare to rural areas. Those experiences helped solidify her decision to attend medical school and practice in underserved communities. 

“Growing up in Crossville, AL served as a window that allowed me to notice the negative consequences of having limited medical resources. My goal as a physician is to help educate, prevent disease, and enhance the quality of life in patients. I believe the funding Blue Cross provides to medical students who are passionate about primary care will have a positive impact on the health of many communities.”

Yesenia Lopez, 2020 Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama scholarship recipient

 Congratulations to all 13 recipients

We want to extend a big congratulations and wish best of luck to all of the amazing recipients of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama’s medical scholarship. With dedicated individuals like these, we know good things will come in the future.

  • Anmol Ahuja                          Clanton, Alabama
  • Austin Brooks                         Heflin, Alabama
  • Chirag Patel                             Enterprise, Alabama
  • Elizabeth “Bess” Butler           Limestone, Alabama
  • Hannah Howard                      Lowndesboro, Alabama
  • Janison Hunter                        Cedar Bluff, Alabama
  • Lee Butler                                Haleyville, Alabama
  • Paul Morris                             Sylacauga, Alabama
  • Robert Weaver                        Alexander City, Alabama
  • Sean Bowman                         Indian Springs, Alabama
  • Yesenia Lopez                         Crossville, Alabama
  • Shannon Walker                      Madison, Alabama
  • Renita Daniels                         Tuscaloosa, Alabama

“Congratulations to each of these exceptional medical students for being selected for this scholarship. I commend them for recognizing the importance of primary care and wanting to provide quality healthcare to those in many of the underserved areas of our state.”

Tim Vines, President and CEO of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama.

For more resources, reach out to Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama through  www.AlabamaBlue.com. Or, find them on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

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