Providence, RI – Governor Lincoln D. Chafee and the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) today announced the recipients of the Rhode Island Health Professional Loan Repayment Program during a State House ceremony that also honored the program's funders.
"Thank you to the five funders – Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island, Neighborhood Health Plan of Rhode Island, the Rhode Island Foundation, the Rhode Island Health Center Association and United Healthcare Community Plan – for coming together to support an initiative that brings medical services to Rhode Island's underserved communities," Governor Chafee said. "And, congratulations to Jane Hayward for her leadership role and dedication to reviving the loan repayment program, which in addition to helping individuals and families in our state, provides eligible health professionals with the ability to repay their education loans." The mission of the program is to improve access to care; to retain healthcare providers in underserved communities; and address health professional shortages that cause disparities in health. Loan re-payment awards to eligible health professionals are given by the Health Professional Loan Repayment Board. "This program plays a vital role in ensuring access to primary care and other healthcare services for underserved Rhode Islanders," said Michael Fine, M.D., director of HEALTH. "In addition, this commitment to serve by these new health professionals provides an important perspective on health disparities and on the link between access to primary care and improved health outcomes."
Eligible health professionals make a two-year commitment to practice in medically underserved communities as identified through the Health Professional Shortage Area process. They serve in a variety of disciplines, including primary care, dentistry, and mental health.
During the State House ceremony, funders of the program were recognized for their support and contributions. Past recipients spoke about their experiences working with underserved populations.
Jane Hayward, president and CEO of the Rhode Island Health Center Association, was honored for her efforts in obtaining matching contributions from community partners, including United Healthcare Community Plan, Neighborhood Health Plan of Rhode Island, Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island, and the Rhode Island Foundation. Additionally, Hayward secured funding that allowed the state to re-establish the program.
Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island, Neighborhood Health Plan of Rhode Island, the Rhode Island Foundation, the Rhode Island Health Center Association and United Healthcare Community Plan each contributed $25,000 to the fund.
"Loan repayment is an important tool to help recruit primary care professionals in Rhode Island," Hayward said. "I am so pleased that we were able to bring together five organizations that understand the importance of primary care. This is one way we can help support efforts to recruit and retain talented healthcare professionals to work in underserved communities in Rhode Island."
This year's loan repayment recipients include: Dr. Eric N. Berard, Thundermist Health Center of Woonsocket; Registered Nurse Alice S. Eyo, Blackstone Valley Community Healthcare of Pawtucket; Dr. Altug Koymen, Providence Community Health Centers at Capitol Hill; Dr. David A. Sam, Notre Dame Ambulatory Center of Memorial Hospital of Rhode Island; Nurse Practitioner Nicole J. Saquet, Providence Community Health Centers at Olneyville; Nurse Practitioner, Adedamola Solawon, Thundermist Health Center of West Warwick; and Dr. Emily M. White, Providence Community Health Centers at Prairie Avenue.