OTTUMWA — Health care students say the financial boost they received through local scholarships encourages them to give back in their future careers.
At Ottumwa Regional Legacy Foundation's annual scholarship recipient reception Thursday afternoon, 21 students pursuing careers in health care were awarded a total of $27,000 in scholarships. Since the scholarship program began in 2004, $246,000 have been awarded.
"We focus on specifically those fields of health careers that we have a shortage of in our community and surrounding communities," said Kelly Genners, ORLF's director of community leadership and grant-making.
Southeast Iowa has had a longstanding difficulty in recruiting and retaining health care professionals, she said.
"There are so many opportunities when you come out of school anymore, so they're recruited hard and they look at a lot of things," she said. "What kind of packages could they potentially get, where could they get their loans paid for, quality of life, where they want to raise their family. I think it's difficult with the low reimbursement rate with Medicare, Iowa is at the bottom, which makes it difficult right out of the gate. But we do have great physicians who want to come here, raise their families and they recognize the importance of small towns."
The students honored Thursday hail from several communities in southeast Iowa, and they're attending universities throughout the nation.
One student, Doug Thompson, drives every day to Des Moines from Ottumwa — where he lives with his wife and two kids — to attend Des Moines University's doctor of physical therapy program.
As a former college athlete himself (Thompson was a pitcher at Muscatine Community College and University of Sioux Falls), he understands the pain of an athletic injury.
"I had a lot of shoulder trouble, so I did PT myself as a patient," he said. "I enjoy helping people. Now I work with youngsters to teach them healthy throwing mechanics."