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Amerigroup Tennessee, ETSU announce new rural medicine scholarship for nursing students

Posted 26 days ago

Amerigroup Tennessee, ETSU announce new rural medicine scholarship for nursing students

  • Jonathan Roberts
  • Johnson City Press

With a goal of improving access and quality of healthcare in Tennessee's distressed counties, health insurance provider Amerigroup Tennessee has established a new scholarship at East Tennessee State University — the Amerigroup Rural Medicine Scholarship (ARMS), valued at $52,000 per student. 

"ARMS was established to remove financial barriers and allow students to focus on their education and career goals, creating a straight path to success and to encourage students to seek nurse practitioner positions that allow them to serve in a distressed county in Tennessee," Amerigroup Tennessee CEO Robert Garnett said in a press conference Friday. "Through this scholarship investment with ETSU, Amerigroup will create primary care access for approximately 3,750 Medicaid members per year." 

The scholarship is funded through a $156,000 grant from Amerigroup, and will fully fund the education of three students in ETSU's Master of Science Nursing-Family Nurse Practitioner concentration, who will be expected to serve as a nurse practitioner in one of the state's distressed counties for a three-year period. According to the Appalachian Regional Coalition, Tennessee has 11 distressed counties, including the East Tennessee counties of Cocke and Hancock. 

Prospective students can learn more and apply for the scholarship by visiting The deadline to apply is March 1

"The school is always looking to grow and to serve our region, and our mission is intentional in stating that we have, and take seriously, the obligation to improve the health — not only in our community — in our region, in our state, in the world," said Dr. Kathryn Wilhoit, interim dean of ETSU's College of Nursing. "This helps us to make a difference in the health of the individuals in these counties these nurse practitioners will go to serve after they've completed their education and obtained their certification. 

"There will be many, many lives influenced — we're talking hundreds, and perhaps thousands that these individuals will impact, encounter, encourage, teach and provide primary care to," Wilhoit continued. 

Elected officials applauded the scholarship.

Tennessee state Sen. Jon Lundberg, R-Kingsport, said "I don't think Amerigroup could have made a better investment."

State Rep. Scotty Campbell, R-Mountain City, said the scholarship was a "great step in the right direction." 

"I want to thank Amerigroup and ETSU both for working together in recognizing a true need here in Northeast Tennessee," Campbell said. "We need well-educated, quality providers that are willing to stay here and take very good care of our people, and I believe this is a great step in the right direction and I'm very glad to see this partnership coming to fruition." 

U.S. Rep. Diana Harshbarger, who represents both Cocke and Hancock counties in the 1st District, called the program wonderful and said "investments in things like this are very critical." 

"When you go out to these rural areas, the people that you serve are going to be thankful to get the care that they might not have gotten if you weren't there," Harshbarger said, adding that the people in those underserved counties will benefit, as will those providing the care. "You will get back more than you ever give, and the thankfulness is going to carry you through your career in so many ways, and these will be memories you will never forget."