Stanislaus County has a shortage of health care providers, and the situation is more acute in neighboring Tuolumne County.
A $2 million grant will give a boost to health careers and create incentives for bringing healthcare professionals to the region.
The Central Valley Health Careers Fund was created through a grant from DBB Foundation, Inc., a successor to Delta Blood Bank after its 2013 sale to the American Red Cross.
The Stanislaus Community Foundation of Modesto will administer the fund to bolster efforts to develop the local healthcare workforce.
“We know there are major gaps in the delivery of health services in the community,” John Eisenhut, president of the DBB Foundation, said in a recent news release. “We wanted to address this shortfall by increasing the number of local health professionals who commit to staying in our region.”
Marian Kaanon, chief executive officer for the Stanislaus Community Foundation, said the fund will pay for scholarships for high school seniors who aspire to healthcare careers. It will support paid internships for college juniors and seniors and help with student loan payments for doctors who commit to working in the area.
Recruitment incentives could be offered to nurses, physician assistants, public health nurses and primary care doctors, Kaanon said. The local need for mental health professionals also will be considered, she said.
The foundation will commission an analysis on filling gaps in the workforce and could start awarding money in eight to 10 months. The health careers fund could support and augment efforts by hospitals, medical clinics and county health clinics to recruit and retain healthcare providers.
Last year, the San Joaquin Valley had 48 primary care physicians and 80 specialists per 100,000 residents, which is well below what’s recommended by the Council on Graduate Medical Education.
Far more attractive for physicians, the Bay Area had 86 primary care doctors and 175 specialists per 100,000 population. The numbers come from the County Health Rankings & Roadmap report.
“We can absolutely have an impact with this money,” Kaanon said. “It keeps the dollars in our community, which is a priority for the community foundation.”
The plans are to invest the $2 million grant from the DBB Foundation and spend the entire pot of money over eight years, Kaanon said. Most of the funds will be committed to Stanislaus County, with some spent in Tuolumne County.
Tom Nipper, former coordinator for the Health Careers Academy at Davis High School, said there’s a need for more scholarships for students in the program.
Nipper said the baby boomers are driving a huge need for nurses and mid-level providers, as well as licensed employees for nursing homes, extended care and rehab hospitals. The academy shows a career path for Davis students who want to become nurses and doctors, most of whom are from lower economic backgrounds, Nipper said, while other students are interested in working in speech therapy, pharmacy, medical records, physical therapy and x-ray technology.
“A large portion don’t have the financial capability of going to a four-year college and seeing their dream come true,” Nipper said. Some of the college-bound Davis students have received scholarships from Health Plan of San Joaquin and the Stanislaus Medical Society.
Ken Carlson: 209-578-2321, @KenCarlson16