Jackson State University unveils $75,000 Amerigroup Scholarship for Mississippi students majoring in rural area healthcare

(Left to right) Dr. Carlos Latorre, Division of Medicaid, Thomas K. Hudson, president of JSU,  Tara Clark, senior director for Amerigroup Mississippi, and Misti Clark, Amerigroup.

(Left to right) Dr. Carlos Latorre, Amerigroup Mississippi medical doctor, Thomas K. Hudson, president of JSU, Tara Clark, Amerigroup Mississippi health plan lead, and Misti Clark, Amerigroup community engagement representative.

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Jackson State University will distribute $75,000 in scholarships for students with health-related majors thanks to a generous donation from Amerigroup, a nationally-known Medicaid managed care company dedicated to improving lives and promoting healthier communities.

On March 16, Amerigroup presented the “big check” to JSU President Thomas K. Hudson, who expressed his gratitude for the organization’s commitment to education and desire to enhance the quality of life for Mississippians by ensuring equitable access to health care.

“Amerigroup’s contribution will not only help our students fulfill their higher- education goals, but they are also helping us position them as culturally competent healthcare leaders, who can uplift the underserved populations in our state,” said Hudson.

Students who are interested in applying for this scholarship must be native Mississippians who commit to practicing in rural market areas for a minimum of three years post-graduation. Amerigroup’s position is that students who grow up in state or rural areas best understand the needs of their neighbors and communities and are likely to continue practicing in those areas where their skills are in high demand. Recipients are also expected to maintain a minimum cumulative 3.3 GPA or higher.

“Amerigroup is dedicated to closing the gap in rural health disparities for residents across the state,” said Tara Clark, Amerigroup Mississippi health plan lead. “By establishing this scholarship, we expect to create a long-lasting, positive impact in rural Mississippi, as well as open doors for students who are not only passionate about caring for others but have also made a commitment to supporting their underserved communities.”

Eighty-two of Mississippi’s counties are considered rural. Characteristically, rural locations have a high elderly population, high poverty rates and fewer doctors, hospitals and health care resources.  The Mississippi State Department of Health recently passed a definition of “What is Rural” for the State of Mississippi.

According to Rule 1.3.1, the state defines a rural area as: 1) a Mississippi county that has a population of fewer than 50,000 individuals, 2) an area that has less than 500 individuals per square mile or 3) a municipality that has less than 15,000 individuals.

Many Jackson State University students are aware of the lack of health care options for residents in distressed counties and towns. Jacori Daniels, a senior biology pre-med major, is from Hazelhurst, Mississippi, where residents have to make the 40- mile trek to Jackson for medical attention.

“Patients must travel out of their comfort zone. People are connected to their rural areas, and it can be frightening going into unfamiliar environments. They don’t want to travel long distances and just may rely on home remedies,” Daniels said in a previous interview, adding there’s a danger that patients’ conditions could worsen and jeopardize their lives.

These are the scenarios that Jackson State and Amerigroup aim to eliminate. Since 1877, JSU has been cultivating leaders to address societal problems and for over 27 years, Amerigroup has coordinated care with state-sponsored programs through affiliated plans. Their reach extends south, east and west in states such as Tennessee, Texas, Maryland and Georgia.

For the past year, Amerigroup has been bringing its experience to Mississippi, collaborating with a growing list of partners including the Mississippi Food Network, Mississippi Rural Health Association, University of Mississippi Medical Center and the Girl Scouts of Greater Mississippi. To learn more about Amerigroup, visit www.amerigroup.com.