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Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama Medical Scholarships Address Health Disparities and Promote Quality Healthcare

BIRMINGHAM, AL. — Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama is proud to expand its medical scholarship program to further address health disparities, particularly in rural and underserved areas of our state. Blue Cross started its medical scholarship program in 2016 which has been renewed and expanded for 2024. These scholarships serve to improve access to quality, affordable healthcare for all Alabamians.

To date, 145 students have been awarded Blue Cross scholarships and 29 have graduated and are now practicing in rural areas across Alabama. In addition to renewing the $11 million in scholarship funding provided since 2016, Blue Cross has committed an additional $13 million towards medical scholarships.

 “Blue Cross is working to emphasize improvement in areas that are currently underrepresented,” said Dr. Darrel Weaver, Vice President of Provider Engagement, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama. “It is often the cost of medical school and education which prevents people from choosing careers in the medical industry. Scholarships enable more people to choose a career in medicine, and this is good news for rural Alabama and other underserved areas.”

In addition to renewing and expanding existing scholarships, Blue Cross is also using scholarships to fight several ongoing crises across the state.

Behavioral Health Crisis
According to the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH), mental illness rates have been rising for the last 20 years. This crisis disproportionately affects veterans, people who suffered trauma as children, or those who came from abusive homes. In Alabama, roughly 41% of the population requires mental health or substance abuse services according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

In recent years, Blue Cross expanded scholarship to address this growing mental health crisis. Dr. Weaver says, “We were fortunate to have psychiatrists graduate with our last group of scholarship recipients. We know that the need for mental health services is one of the largest crises facing Alabama, and it’s good to know we have been able to help equip doctors with the skills necessary to help treat patients.”

Nursing Shortage

According to a survey from The Alabama Board of Nursing, roughly 39,000 nurses are expected to leave the profession in the next five years. Based on that information, the current nurse deficit of 5,000 is expected to balloon upward to an overwhelming 14,000 by 2027.

To increase the number of qualified nurses, Blue Cross is now offering scholarships to nursing students at select community colleges. These scholarships will support nurses working towards their degrees as Registered Nurses (RNs).

Dentistry Shortage

Rural areas often struggle to attract dentists, and the number of dentists in rural Alabama is shrinking. There is at least one county in the state without a single dentist.

Dr. Weaver says, “Scholarships are a great way to address the dental shortage in Alabama and bring in new dentists. These programs provide resources to students so they can go back and take the skills they learn to serve rural and underserved communities in need of adequate dental care.”

Maternal Health Disparities

According to the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH), infant and maternal mortality rates in Alabama are a huge problem. Infant and mortality rates in Alabama are well above the national average.

Blue Cross is now providing scholarships to Certified Nurse Midwives and Family Medicine Obstetrics to support a larger Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association goal of reducing maternal health disparities by 50% within five years. Certified Nurse Midwives are medical practitioners educated in graduate programs accredited through the Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education (ACME) to provide comprehensive care for maternity patients. Family Medicine Obstetrics are medical doctors who practice Family Medicine that receive additional medical training through a fellowship program where they receive in-depth education in obstetric care so they can fully practice obstetrics for their patients, including operative obstetrics.

For 2024, scholarships will go to students at the following schools:

  • Alabama College of Osteopathic Medicine in Dothan
  • Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine at Auburn University
  • University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine
  • University of South Alabama College of Medicine in Mobile
  • Jefferson State Community College
  • Calhoun Community College
  • West Alabama Community College
  • Coastal Alabama Community College

A condition for most of these scholarships requires recipients practice in underserved areas of Alabama after graduation for a period of three years. This investment ensures many Alabamians will have access to the quality healthcare they need, giving them peace of mind and resulting in better health outcomes

The unfortunate news is many in Alabama currently lack adequate access to healthcare. The good news is these scholarships are making a real impact. According to Dr. Weaver, “It’s good to know we have professionals practicing today in parts of Alabama who really needed the additional care. Those successes are a result of these scholarships.” About the year ahead, he says, “We’ll continue our focus on primary care, but we’ll also place extra emphasis on maternal and behavioral health as well as addressing shortages in dentistry and nursing.”

Blue Cross proudly continues working to improve Alabama’s future through investments that address changing health needs and combat disparities wherever they arise. These initiatives align with Blue Cross’ mission to ensure quality, affordable healthcare.

 About Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama has insured Alabamians for over 88 years. Blue Cross offers coverage plans to corporations, individuals and the senior market. For more information about Blue Cross, visit Connect with us on Facebook, check out our videos on YouTube and follow us on Twitter for more up-to-date information.  

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.

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