The commitment to improve access to healthcare in rural Kentucky was one of the driving forces behind a new partnership between Eastern Kentucky University and Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield which launched Thursday in front of the Rowlett Building, home of Student Health Services.

Anthem’s $92,000 commitment will support EKU nursing students and is designed to bring more providers to rural areas by educating more healthcare workers. Eight recipients were honored with the new Anthem Rural Medicine scholarship. The 2021 recipients were Alan Sloas, Haley Bloom, Madison Trent, Alexis McWhorter, Breanna Goble, Sara Cornelison, Shaye Duvall and Sara Darmadji.

According to a press release by Anthem, these students were selected based on academic excellence, an understanding for the Kentucky communities in need and a commitment to serving in an area with rural health professional shortage after graduation. Students selected must maintain a minimum grade-point average of 3.3 or higher.

“If there is anything that COVID-19 pandemic has taught us, it is just how important our healthcare heroes are,” Leon Lamoreaux, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield President said. “Even prior to COVID-19, access to healthcare in rural communities of Kentucky has always been a challenge.”

Lamoreaux said that there is currently a 10-40% vacancy rating in nursing positions in hospitals throughout Kentucky.

The partnership between Anthem and EKU aims to fill the shortages in rural Kentucky and help provide primary health care access to the estimated 102,000 Medicaid beneficiaries in Kentucky for years to come.

"We’re going to be able to provide care that these folks are going to be able to render for many, many years to come. So, that’s why it’s valuable for Anthem to make this kind of an investment. It’s really an investment in access to healthcare,” Lamoreaux said.

Thursday’s announcement comes after Anthem’s recent partnership with Hazard Community and Technical College to create scholarships for health care students in eastern Kentucky. According to the press release from Anthem, Anthem pledged nearly $200,000 to invest in the future of education and health care access across Kentucky.

EKU President David McFaddin said Anthem’s partnership with EKU is one step in providing a solution to the rural health care problem in the Commonwealth.

“If we’re going to be a part of the solution, we’ve got to think about ideas like this that start to address the problems that we see in our communities, and rural healthcare providers is a problem across Kentucky,” McFaddin said. “Being able to partner with someone like Anthem to bring more of those individuals to those communities is how you’re part of the solution.”

McFaddin said he is excited to continue this scholarship in the future. He believes the Anthem Rural Medicine scholarship will attract new students to the nursing program at Eastern.

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