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Foundation awards $800,000 in scholarships

First Posted: 10:48 am - August 21st, 2015

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COLUMBIA — The BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina Foundation on Wednesday presented an $800,000 grant toward a University of South Carolina School of Medicine Greenville scholarship fund that contributes to the goal of increasing physicians in the Palmetto State while placing an emphasis on diversity.

The grant will be distributed through the school’s Levi S. Kirkland Sr. M.D. Scholarship. It will provide five students with $40,000 a year during their enrollment at the medical school. The gift is for under-represented minorities (African Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans).

“The number of doctors practicing in South Carolina per 100,000 people is well below the national average, and the state is expected to lose 200 or more physicians each year over the next decade. The shortfall will affect everyone, especially our vulnerable and underserved populations,” said Foundation Executive Director Harvey Galloway. “Diversity of the health care workforce is important to providing culturally competent care. We wanted to support the Kirkland Scholarship to help increase diversity in this workforce, which will help expand access for the underserved, as well as lead to research in neglected areas.”

Students accepting the scholarship must agree to practice full time in South Carolina within one year of completing their graduate medical education residency and/or fellowship training. They must work in the state one year for each year of scholarship support received.

“We have seen a marked increase in the number of highly competitive applicants to USCSOM Greenville, but the state and national number of under-represented minority applicants remains far below the need,” said Dr. Jerry Youkey, dean of the University of South Carolina School of Medicine Greenville. “For this reason, scholarship support like this generous award from the BlueCross Foundation is critical to helping us matriculate these excellent students at USCSOM Greenville and retain them in South Carolina.”

The United States will be short more than 90,000 physicians by 2020 and 130,000 physicians by 2025, according to projections by the Association of American Medical Colleges. Many South Carolina counties, like rural communities across the United States, are already experiencing a physician shortage.

There is also demand for minority physicians. Research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that African American, Asian and Hispanic patients are 19 to 26 times more likely to be cared for by a physician of their same race.

Minority physicians treat the majority of underserved patients, even though African American and Hispanic physicians are under-represented in the physician workforce. Together, those groups make up more than 25 percent of the U.S. population, but less than 15 percent of the nation’s physicians.

“USCSOM Greenville is committed to educating under-represented minority students not only to reduce health care disparities, but also to create a diverse student body that enriches our learning environment,” Youkey said.

The University of South Carolina School of Medicine Greenville’s Levi. S. Kirkland Sr. M.D. Scholarship is named in honor of Greenville Health System’s first African-American surgeon. Kirkland, a native of Camden, attended Morehouse College, where he was a classmate and friend of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Kirkland graduated from Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tenn., after being denied medical school admission in South Carolina because of the state’s segregation policies. In 2014, the medical school and GHS renamed a scholarship fund focused on diversity to honor Kirkland, who still lives in Greenville.

About the BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina Foundation

Headquartered in Columbia, the foundation (www.bcbsscfoundation.org) is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. Its mission is to promote and support healthier South Carolinians, particularly the economically vulnerable, by supporting solutions to address gaps in health care and serving as an agent of change to support innovation and value-added public-private partnerships.

About the University of South Carolina School of Medicine Greenville

The University of South Carolina (USC) School of Medicine-Greenville is a four-year medical program developed as a partnership between the University of South Carolina (USC) and Greenville Health System (GHS). Since 1991, GHS has provided clinical education to third- and fourth-year medical students of the USC School of Medicine Columbia. In 2009, the decision was made to expand to a four-year medical school. The school welcomed its charter class in July 2012. Learn more at greenvillemed.sc.edu.

About Greenville Health System

Greenville Health System (GHS) — an academic health system that is the largest not-for-profit healthcare delivery system in South Carolina — is committed to medical excellence through research, patient care and education. GHS offers patients an innovative network of clinical integration, expertise and technologies through its eight medical campuses, tertiary medical center, research and education facilities, community hospitals, physician practices and numerous specialty services throughout the Upstate. The 1,358-bed system is home to 15 medical residency and fellowship programs. GHS is also home to the University of South Carolina School of Medicine Greenville, a joint effort of USC and GHS. Visit ghs.org for more information.

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