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Second class of Aspirus Scholars named to tackle physician shortage

in Biz Briefs/Community

NEWS RELEASE – The Aspirus Health Foundation’s Aspirus Scholars Program has awarded $706,000 to six college students pursuing careers in health care. The program is a community collaboration to address the national physician shortage and meet the needs of people and communities in north central Wisconsin and Upper Michigan today and for future generations.

The Aspirus Scholars Program provides generous scholarships for tuition to medical students and advanced practice provider students – such as physician assistants and nurse practitioners – and connects them to Aspirus and the communities served by Aspirus during their training. In return, students will commit to future employment at Aspirus in the areas of primary care, psychiatry or general surgery.

Six Aspirus Scholars recipients have accepted scholarships in return for a five-year employment commitment with Aspirus:

  • Alexa Ernst, Medical Student – Medical College of Wisconsin-Central Wisconsin Campus.
  • Bryan Miles, Medical Student – Medical College of Wisconsin-Central Wisconsin Campus.
  • Hilary Steltenpohl, Medical Student – Medical College of Wisconsin-Central Wisconsin Campus.
  • Aaron Weaver, Medical Student – Medical College of Wisconsin-Central Wisconsin Campus.
  • Abby Alft, Physician Assistant Student – University of Wisconsin-Madison Wisconsin Physician Assistant Community-Based Tract (wisPACT) program at the UW-Marathon County campus.
  • Katie Willfahrt, Physician Assistant Student – Marquette University (Milwaukee) Physician Assistant program.

“Our Aspirus Scholars award recipients already have strong ties to north central Wisconsin and are passionate about medicine and caring for patients,” said Kalynn Pempek, executive director, Aspirus Health Foundation and Volunteer Services. “Each will be a tremendous addition to the Aspirus family and the communities we serve.”

The Aspirus Scholars Program is a forward-looking approach that could bring as many as 62 new primary care, psychiatry or general surgery providers to communities in north central Wisconsin and the upper peninsula of Michigan by the year 2030. It leverages the unique opportunity to collaborate with college and university partners whose programs are specifically designed to attract students interested in learning and working in community and rural settings.

A selection committee made up of Aspirus and community members from Wisconsin and the U.P. of Michigan screened the applications and selected the second class of Aspirus Scholars. The inaugural class of Aspirus included a medical student from the MCW-CW campus, Chris Zeman, and two physician assistant students from the UW wisPACT program at the UWMC.

“The local, state and national provider shortage is real, and the Aspirus Scholars Program was designed as an important approach to meet the needs of our communities for access to high-quality health care for future generations,” said Kalynn Pempek. “Aspirus and our community partners are proud to invest in the students who will care for our patients and communities as physicians and advanced practice providers in the future.”

The Aspirus Scholars Program is made possible through contributions from community partners such as The Legacy Foundation of Central Wisconsin; Judd S. Alexander Foundation; Dwight and Linda Davis Foundation, B.A. & Esther Greenheck Foundation; Dudley Foundation, Molinaro Family, and individual donors.

Vital investments were also made by Aspirus Grand View Hospital (Ironwood, Mich.); Aspirus Iron River Hospital (Iron River, Mich.);  Aspirus Keweenaw Hospital (Laurium, Mich.); Aspirus Langlade Hospital (Antigo, Wis.); Aspirus Medford Hospital; Aspirus Ontonagon Hospital (Ontonagon, Mich.); Aspirus Riverview Hospital (Wisconsin Rapids, Wis.); and Aspirus Wausau Hospital.

Photo: Aaron Weaver is one of six Aspirus Scholars who accepted scholarships in return for a five-year employment commitment with Aspirus. (Contributed photo)

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