Health careers are abundant as the shortage of health care workers increases each year, but the most common shortage lies in the nursing field. The City of Muskogee Foundation has teamed up with Connors State College and the City of Muskogee to provide financial, educational and career opportunities to Muskogee County residents interested in health care.

The brand new scholarship, the Muskogee Difference Healthcare Scholarship, was first introduced in Fall 2012, but underwent a few changes to make it the best it can be, according to foundation and college officials.

“We wanted to make a significant commitment to the City of Muskogee and give people who are interested in these kinds of careers not just an opportunity, but take away all the barriers and excuses,” says Connors State College President Dr. Tim Faltyn. “To date, I’m happy to report that we’ve had 52 people apply for the scholarship and are in the pipeline, which is an excellent start.”

This is an access scholarship designed for those who live within Muskogee County and is open to anyone who wants to study nursing or allied health.

The scholarship is a gap scholarship, meaning it will provide funding to fill the gap between a student’s financial aid and cost of attendance. Gap funding is a college-driven funding program targeted at assisting students with the cost of higher education.

Students who receive the MDHS are required to sign a commitment to work as a health care professional in the Muskogee service area for two years following graduation if employment is available.

“There are some really great stories about people that really didn’t have any other alternatives but have found this scholarship and are now on the path to not just getting a job, but getting a career, and now they can provide for their families,” Faltyn says. “Nursing and allied health careers are life-changers for people.”

Muskogee Mayor Bob Coburn says Muskogee has had a nursing shortage since at least 1983 when he moved back to the area.

“From a community impact standpoint, besides providing that educational highway and those opportunities, it provides nursing staff to the community,” Coburn says.

Frank Merrick, Muskogee Foundation executive director, says the scholarship is a “three-fer.”

“(For) most things we do have multiple benefits, but this one, we spend a lot of energy helping people move out of poverty,” Merrick says. “Most of our students are first-generation college kids and are college adults. Giving people a job that allows them to move out of poverty, plus strengthen our health care, plus strengthening our education in the city – it’s a three-fer, for sure.”

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