The National Health Service Corps Awards FIU Medical Student

Photo courtesy of Jennifer Knight.

By: Fabian Osorio/Staff Writer

Earlier this year, Jennifer Knight was notified that she was one of the 1,480 students who had received a scholarship award this year.

Knight is the first FIU student recipient of the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) scholarship awarded by the United States Department of Health and Human Services. The award was presented to her in October.

She said that she was the only FIU student who had been awarded a scholarship, but there were other students who had received a loan payment option.

“The NHSC has several options that assist healthcare professionals willing to practice in Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs) in either funding their education up front in the form of a scholarship like in my case, or repaying the student loans of those who are unsure of whether they want to specialize in primary care when they first begin their studies,” Knight said.

According to NHSC, the benefits of the NHSC Scholarship Program (SP) are “experience in clinical primary health care services and payment of educational expenses.” The recipients of the scholarship will join thousands of current and former NHSC clinicians who provide primary health care services to communities in need.

Regarding the payment of educational expenses, NHSC SP provides financial support for full time enrollment such as payment of tuition, annual payment of other educational costs and monthly stipends to assist with living expenses while pursuing the health professionals’ educational training program.  

Her scholarship covers full tuition and fees, a monthly stipend of around $1,300 and other education-related costs like textbooks, uniforms, equipment and health insurance.

“I will essentially have my education paid to help me do what I want to do. The NHSC scholarship is not for everyone. It has a specific mission, but for those who fit this mission it is a major help to offset the immense costs of a career in medicine,” she said.

The purpose of the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) scholarship Program (SP) is to provide scholarships to students pursuing training in primary care health in return for a commitment to work in primary health services in a HPSA.

Knight had had previous experience working in urban and underserved areas. What triggered her to participate in the scholarship process was that she always knew she wanted to get involved in primary care and work with underserved populations. She highlighted that the scholarship was a great option for her.

“ I have always been very interested in helping people with HIV and infectious diseases, and that has led me to work with key vulnerable populations including people who inject drugs, incarcerated men and women, transgender women, men who have sex with men, and internationally in under-resourced areas of the Dominican Republic and Kenya,” she said.

She holds a master’s degree in Public Health, and this has really helped her shape her interest in working in primary care and targeting underserved populations. However, she does not know yet what will be the focus of her practice and where the care practice will be located.

“Honestly, I am not sure yet where I will end up and what kind of practice I will implement in my career. Primary care is a huge field and there are so many areas to focus on within it. For example, I have thought about pursuing a fellowship in infectious diseases following my service commitment, since I have a strong interest in HIV,” She said.

She has also considered working in addiction medicine. She has personally been impacted by the opioid epidemic, addiction, and overdose. She chose FIU because there is a major emphasis on community engagement and increasing access to health care in the Miami-Dade community.

“These are huge issues impacting us now, both clinically and non-clinically. Primary care is linked to improvements in health equity, which is something I am very passionate about” she said.

Knight does not know yet what will be her specialization plan in the future, but she has accepted two years of financial assistance. She will give back two years of service once she finishes her residency after medical school.

“The five types of residency programs allowed by NHSC are: internal medicine, family medicine, psychiatry, pediatrics, and OB/GYN. I have thought about OB/GYN as I am really interested in women’s health, but also internal medicine as I am really interested in HIV and addiction medicine,” she said.

Knight said that primary care is a main reason why she decided to pursue medicine in general. 

“It has been driven by a strong sense of social justice and a desire to help meet the huge need for providers of primary care across the country.” 

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