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Andrea Fachini G’19

Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies

I was awarded a highly competitive National Health Service Corps Scholarship that will not only make my education feasible--it will allow me to pursue my passion for providing care to underserved populations. 

Although I was accepted to a few programs, I chose Bay Path because I felt it would best prepare me for my career, and in Western Massachusetts, there are great economic opportunities for me and my husband. We’ve moved around quite a bit over the years, from Oregon to New York, but happily relocated to East Longmeadow recently to be part of this community. 

I began my career as a medical assistant, and that sparked my interest in taking my education to the next level. I didn’t have a bachelor’s degree at that time, but during a difficult pregnancy found an opportunity for myself to study online. I later transferred to MCLA and completed my four-year degree in biology in December. Working at a community health center with rotating residencies, I found myself quickly knowing answers to the practitioners’ complex questions on health, policies, and best practices. I wanted to explore options available to me and began looking at graduate programs.

While researching the feasibility of studying to be a PA online, I learned about an exciting and competitive scholarship opportunity through an online forum. The National Health Service Corps (NHSC) Scholarship provides funding opportunities to students pursuing primary health care professions training in return for a commitment to provide primary health services in a Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA).

The NHSC would not only have a huge impact on my ability to pursue a master’s degree in the field, but would allow me to pursue my area of passion-- providing care to those who need it most. I identify strongly with the idea of serving the underserved. In my childhood, my family was very poor and I experienced precarious living situations-- not having enough food, not being able to get to the doctor-- the list goes on. As a young adult, I was homeless for some years, so I can personally relate to patients in similar positions. Doing what I intended to do while receiving a monthly stipend to help support my family seemed almost too good to be true, but I knew I had to go for it. 

The application process was daunting and took months to carry out. An applicant can have up to five letters of recommendation, but it's advised to have at least one letter from a former employer who can speak to your professional performance, one letter from a professor who can speak to your academic performance, and one letter from a medical professional with whom the applicant has a professional relationship, someone who has seen the applicant interact with patients and knows them well. In addition, the applicant writes three essays, submits transcripts, and fills out numerous forms. The criteria are stringent. 

This highly competitive scholarship is awarded to just a couple hundred applicants at most out of thousands who apply. This year, of more than 4,000 applications, 138 were selected and I couldn’t be prouder to be among them. 

The NHSC scholarship will pay for 100% of my tuition, books, and other educational materials, as well as provide a monthly stipend toward my living expenses, in exchange for my commitment to work as a full-time primary care provider for two years (or part-time for four years) in an underserved location approved by the Health Resources and Services Administration. There are some approved locations in Springfield and Holyoke where I hope to do rotations and possibly serve when I'm finished with my degree. 

Although time management is very challenging while being in such a demanding degree program, especially juggling family time so I don't miss out but still do what needs to be done, and complete all my assignments, I’m confident that this opportunity is just what I need to achieve my goals. I am so lucky to have the best 16-year-old son, Niko, who is my biggest help--he has picked up slack around the house and does so much for his brother. I don't know how I would do this without him. My husband, Cory, is very supportive as well, and although my 5-year-old Max isn't getting as much of my attention as he was used to, we're making it work. I’m eager to begin my career as a PA in primary care, and am certain that with the support of my family, through my NHSC scholarship in addition to the education and training I’m receiving at Bay Path, I’ll learn a lot, particularly working in an underserved area like those I lived in for most of my life.

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