ARH To Offer $20,000 Medical Technologist Scholarship Opportunity

Hazard, Ky. – To help combat a shortage of medical technologists in the area, students who have successfully completed their first semester of the Medical Laboratory Science (MLS) program at the UK Center of Excellence in Rural Health in Hazard will now have an opportunity to apply for a $20,000 scholarship to help with tuition costs, fees, books, supplies, etc.

Appalachian Regional Healthcare (ARH) and the workforce development agency Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program (EKCEP) have teamed up to help reduce these financial barriers for students working toward a career in hospital laboratories.

In addition to the $20,000 financial commitment from ARH, these students can also qualify, pending workforce program eligibility, to receive additional wrap-around supportive services funding from EKCEP to reduce barriers associated with transportation costs, childcare, and other socio-economic obstacles that can hinder some students’ training success and completion. This funding from EKCEP is being provided through a U.S. Department of Labor H-1B Rural Healthcare Grant awarded to EKCEP to address key staffing shortages at Eastern Kentucky’s healthcare providers, with a focus on nursing pathway occupations (CNA, CMA, LPN, and RN) as well as Medical Technologists. This grant was based upon extensive data derived by EKCEP in direct partnership with the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce’s Talent Pipeline Management (TPM) program, as well as seven Eastern Kentucky healthcare providers themselves, including ARH. 

“We are very pleased to work closely with our region’s healthcare providers to address their most pressing, skilled staffing needs with this special funding from the U.S. Department of Labor targeted specifically for this purpose,” said Michael Cornett, deputy director for employer engagement and program operations for EKCEP. “We’re excited about the opportunity to once again closely collaborate with ARH and assisting the Med Tech students of the U.K. Center of Excellence in Rural Health is right at the heart of our grant’s purpose and mission.”

ARH President and CEO Hollie Phillips said the health system is experiencing a shortage of Medical Technologists across its 14-hospital system and the investment ARH will make through presenting the scholarships will help reduce a barrier that might keep students from completing the program.

“We have heard that one of the main challenges in filling these positions is that there is a limited number of students locally earning this degree. The program is rigorous and can require a full-time commitment. Without the ability to work while going to school, or work enough hours while doing so, some students cannot complete the program due to financial barriers,” Phillips said. “We hope to help ease this burden through these scholarships and our partnership with our workforce partner EKCEP. Our goal is to help these individuals get the training they need to embark upon a great healthcare career and bring them back to ARH to do so.”

“We know from our rural health workforce studies that the demand is very high for medical laboratory scientists and the need has become even more drastic as a result of the pandemic,” said Dr. Fran Feltner, director of the UK Center of Excellence in Rural Health. 

“The MLS program available on UK’s Hazard campus can supply this need with highly qualified professionals,” said Feltner.  “Our program is a bachelor of science degree, graduating individuals who are well-prepared to work in modern clinical laboratories and eligible to take the national certification examination through the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) Board of Certification.  These new scholarships will put the degree in reach for students and alleviate financial barriers,” Feltner added.

Scott Lephart, PhD, and Dean of the College of Health Sciences, said the scholarship opportunity aligns perfectly with the mission of the College.

“Here in the College of Health Sciences, our mission is to help the people of the Commonwealth attain the highest level of health possible, and this opportunity will help us do just that,” he said. “By assisting in filling the need for more Medical Technologists, we will be better equipped to make certain that our population has the best resources available to meet their needs. We applaud this partnership and thank Appalachian Regional Healthcare and the Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program for their support.”

ARH hopes to offer at least five scholarships per semester. As part of the ARH scholarship, the MLS students will be required to make a 2-year employment commitment to work at an ARH facility after graduating.

Dylon Baker, ARH System Director, Talent Acquisition said ARH will meet with current MLS students to make them aware of the scholarship opportunity and how to apply. Moving forward, students will be made aware of the scholarship opportunities during their first semester and/or during the UK recruitment events. Students will apply for the scholarship via an electronic application and must complete an interview process as part of the application process.

The deadline to apply for UK’s MLS program on the Hazard Campus is May 1.  For more information contact Angie Phipps, 606-439-3557.

Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program (EKCEP), is a nonprofit workforce development agency headquartered in Hazard, Ky., which serves the citizens of 23 Appalachian coalfield counties. As staff of the Eastern Kentucky Workforce Innovation Board (EKWIB), the agency provides an array of workforce development services and operates the Kentucky Career Center JobSight network of workforce centers. EKCEP’s services provide access to an array of employment and training assistance opportunities for job seekers and employers with the mission to prepare, advance, and expand the workforce of Eastern Kentucky. 

Appalachian Regional Healthcare (ARH), is a not-for-profit health system operating 14 hospitals in Barbourville, Hazard, Harlan, Hyden, Martin, McDowell, Middlesboro, Paintsville, Prestonsburg, West Liberty, Whitesburg, and South Williamson in Kentucky and Beckley and Hinton in West Virginia, as well as multi-specialty physician practices, home health agencies, home medical equipment stores and retail pharmacies. ARH employs nearly 6,500 people with an annual payroll and benefits of $330 million generated into our local economies. ARH also has a network of more than 600 active and courtesy medical staff members. ARH is the largest provider of care and the single largest employer in southeastern Kentucky and the third-largest private employer in southern West Virginia.

University of Kentucky Center of Excellence in Rural Health was established by state legislation in 1990 to address health disparities in rural Kentucky and the unique challenges faced by our communities. The mission was and still is today to improve the health and wellbeing of rural Kentuckians. For more than three decades, the Center has partnered with communities, providers, students and individuals to provide health professions education, health policy research, health care service and community engagement toward reaching this mission.