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RIDOH Honors Health Professional Loan Repayment Program Recipients and Donors at State House Ceremony

The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) and the Board of the Health Professional Loan Repayment Program (HPLRP) today recognized the 2020-2023 HPLRP award recipients for their service and commitment during one of the most challenging times in healthcare. The event, held at the Rhode Island State House, also recognized the donors whose generosity makes this loan repayment program possible.

The HPLRP is a critical component of the State's efforts to increase healthcare access and reduce health disparities through recruiting and retaining quality, community-oriented health professionals. Through the support of generous donors, each year, the Board of the HPLRP has provided loan repayment awards to health professionals who have committed to providing care in Health Professional Shortage Areas statewide.

From 2020 to 2023, the Health Professional Loan Repayment program made awards to 104 healthcare professionals, including physicians, dentists, nurses, and behavioral healthcare providers. In accepting their loan repayment awards, the recipients have committed to practicing in medically underserved communities in Rhode Island for at least two years.

"All Rhode Islanders in every ZIP code deserve access to high-quality health services and care," said Utpala Bandy, MD, MPH, Interim Director of Health and Chair of the Health Professional Loan Repayment Board. "The Health Professional Loan Repayment Program is a critical component of our efforts to address health workforce shortages, increase access to primary care, dental, and behavioral health services, and reduce health disparities among our most vulnerable populations."

The COVID-19 pandemic put great stress on the healthcare workforce nationally and in Rhode Island, creating burnout, exhaustion, and trauma that led to workforce shortages. During the public health emergency, RIDOH and the Health Professional Loan Repayment Program Board provided $3.85 million in loan repayment awards to help strengthen the healthcare workforce and narrow health disparities by increasing the number of providers in medically underserved communities. The program is an essential tool for recruiting and retaining high-quality healthcare providers.

"The attainment of a postsecondary degree is absolutely essential in order to enter certain industries, especially those fields where the salaries are higher than average," said Rhode Island Postsecondary Commissioner Shannon Gilkey. "Since 2008, 99% of new jobs created were filled by people who pursued education beyond a high school diploma. As a state, Rhode Island continues to innovate ways to make a college education more equitable and more affordable, and this loan repayment program is one effort that is tremendously successful not only in retaining workforce talent but also for helping communities most in need of their talents and services."

Funding for the program comes from the federal government and from various health and community organizations. The Rhode Island Health Center Association solicited matching funds from many of these organizations.

"As Rhode Island faces a severe healthcare workforce shortage, the commitment of the donors and supporters to this program is more important than ever," said Elena Nicolella, president and CEO of the Rhode Island Health Center Association. "Today, we celebrate their investment in the State's primary medical, behavioral, and oral health care workforce and recognize the health care professionals who work hard to ensure all Rhode Islanders have access to high-quality care."

Donors to the Health Professional Loan Repayment Program include Blue Cross Blue Shield of RI, Delta Dental of Rhode Island, Landmark Medical Center, Neighborhood Health Plan of RI, Point32Health, Prospect CharterCARE, the Rhode Island Foundation, the Rhode Island Medical Society, the Rhode Island Health Center Association, and the UnitedHealthcare Community Plan. In addition, the program receives federal funding in the form of a grant to RIDOH by the US Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA).

Learn more about the Health Professional Loan Repayment Program at health.ri.gov/programs/healthprofessionalloanrepayment.

HPLRP Award Recipients honored include:

Class of 2020

Dr. Elizabeth Benz, DMD Erika Berrio, LMHC Ann Bisland, MSN, CPNP-PC, PMHS Dr. Sarah Bolis, DMD Ruth Chevez, MSN, APRN, FNP-BC Dr. Lindiwe Coster, DMD Dr. Eileen Danaher, DMD Melanie Dubois, APRN Nadia Evora, LMHC, LCDP, CCSP Heather Fusco, RN Heidi Gay, RN Lauren Glynn, MA, LMHC Rafael Guevarez Jr., RN Dr. Allison Heinly, MD Dawn Hulsebus, RN Dr. Erica Knarr, DMD, MA, MPH Kevin Kretchman, LMHC, LCDP Arquelina Lopes, LICSW Taisha Macedo, APRN Vanessa Madrid, RN Jessica McCauley, LMHC Dr. Christina McCormick, MD Sheila Murphy, PAC-C Dr. Joey Napolitano, DMD Alice Omerhi, MSN, APRN Christine Omerhi Pincince, MSN, APRN Renee Payot, LICSW Katherine Randall, LICSW Dr. Jessica Ryan, Pharm.D. Tiffany Sauer, RN Dr. Lauren Schlanger, MD Nissa Slachek, RN Shana Streeter, LICSW Dr. Mary Beth Sutter, MD, FAAFP Tenita Valles, MA, LMHC Dr. Tiffanie Waldeck, DMD Rebecca Wright Rogers, LCSW

Class of 2021

Melissa Abbondanza, RN Fraynelis Andujar, LICSW, CGS Dr. Elizabeth Benz, DMD Ann Bisland, MSN, CPNP-PC, PMHS Veronica Brimpong, RN Elizabeth Carmona, RN Melissa Casto, RN Dr. Eileen Danaher, DMD Dr. Jenny David, DO Antonio Furtado, RN John Gambino, RN Natasha Goncalves, RN Margaret Janci, APRN Katelyn Larsson, PAC-C Kelli Li, LMHC Karen Marsella, RN Susana Miranda, RN Leanne Myatt, APRN Monica Ortiz, RN Dr. Erin Rawson, MD Ernesto Rocha, RN Alyssa Simpson, RDH Laura Vargas, LICSW Kehinde Vaz, LICSW Dr. Delma-Jean Watts, MD Tashawna Williams, APRN Dr. Claire Williams, MD

Class of 2022

Dr. Elizabeth Benz, DMD Stephanie Bursell, RDH Shanda Christal-Scott, RDH Dr. Beth Cleary, PhD, APRN Jessica Coliflores, MSN, APRN, FNP-C Dr. Abram Collard, DO Dr. Lindiwe Coster, DMD Joseph Desrosiers II, PA-C Cayla DiSano, MSW, LICSW Amanda Duarte-Azevedo, LCSW Philomene Fortes, APRN Caterina Furtado, RDH Vilma Guevara, APRN Jasmine Jones, LICSW Ariadna Lozano, LCSW Kayla Oliver, LMHC, QMHP, CCHP Pedro Alejandro Madera, RDH Dr. Christina McCormick, MD Jonluc Mottl, LCSW Jennifer Pace, LCSW Dr. Marylin Powers, DO Astrid Ruano, LCSW Dr. Inna Ryvkin, MD

Class of 2023

Dr. Joke Alesh, DMD, MPH Shauna Ascenio, LICSW, LCADC, CCHP Jessie Brooks, RN Catherine Cole, RDH Danielle Crowell, APRN Amanda DeSimone, RN Kaitlin Gagne, RN Jessica Gawrys, PAC-C Rose-Laure Goudiaby , LCSW Natali Guzman, LCSW Dr. Ashley Laferriere, Pharm.D. Karen Last, APRN Meloney Lausier, RN-BC Taisha Macedo, APRN Alexandra Marchioro, LCSW Michaela McTomney, RN Melissa Mills, PAC-C Dr. Samuel Ocel, DMD Dr. Melissa Palma, MD Dr. Matthew Perry, MD Corissa Pond, APRN Brittany Reilly, LMHC Krista Vargas, RN Jason Villa, PAC-C

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