Training health workers – Reynolds Trust addresses staffing gap

By Todd Cohen

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — To increase access to health care by financially needy North Carolinians, the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust in Winston-Salem for the past five years has fostered the creation or expansion of education programs to train allied health professionals.

The foundation has spent $3.7 million for 16 programs at colleges, universities and community colleges. The foundation, which had $580 million in assets at the end of 1999, hands out about $25 million in grants a year.

The programs aim to attract students who will stay in underserved communities to work as allied health professionals — physician assistants, family nurse practitioners, occupational therapists, occupational therapist assistants, physical therapists, respiratory therapists, dental hygienists and certified nursing therapists.

“What we’re trying to do is address the health-care needs of people in underserved areas,” says Ray Cope, the foundation’s executive director. “And by funding these programs, we’re able to provide trained people to serve in these areas. Our goal is to fund programs that encourage these allied health personnel to go to these areas that are underserved or to stay in those areas if they’re trained there.”

At Winston-Salem State University, for example, the trust awarded $695,950 to a degree program in physical therapy created in the early 1990s. About 18 students a year graduate from the program, which includes pre-clinical courses at WSSU nd clinical courses at Wake Forest University School of Medicine Campus, as well as clinical work at the city’s major hospitals and rehabilitation centers.

At the same time, Forsyth Technical Community College created a physical therapy assistant program, which is headed by the director of the WSSU program. Students in both programs share facilities, faculty and library resources.

Cope says the foundation is looking for opportunities to fund similar programs. For example, he says, the foundation currently is concerned about a shortage of nurses and certified nursing assistant.

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