Kaiser Permanente’s wide funding helps Georgia State nurses and faculty thrive

Since 2005, healthcare delivery system has funded scholarships and more to answer state’s critical shortage of health care professionals


To bolster the front line of community health care, Kaiser Permanente has given almost $800,000 to Georgia State University to support nursing education – without service requirements after graduation.

Students at GSU’s Byrdine F. Lewis School of Nursing and Health Professions who receive this funding are not obligated to work for Kaiser Permanente after graduation.

“Criteria like that often means the funds will go unspent – that’s what we learned by listening to nursing schools deans in our region,” said Evonne Yancey, director of Kaiser Permanente’s Community Benefit and Community Affairs for 25 years.

Since 2005, the company has endowed scholarships as well as awarded a Nursing Faculty Scholar Award and the Kaiser Permanente Award for Family Nurse Practitioners.

“We are very grateful to Kaiser Permanente for their financial support, especially for our nursing scholarships. It is rare to find an organization such as Kaiser with the selfless foresight to invest in nursing education, particularly with no strings attached,” says Margaret C. Wilmoth, dean of the nursing school. “Kaiser’s scholarship gifts to GSU benefits all of Georgia.”

At GSU, the funding mostly goes into scholarships for students like Priya Patel, who was recognized as a scholarship recipient at the nursing school’s Honors Day on March 12.

“The scholarship has helped me in so many ways,” said Patel, who expects to graduate in 2014. “It has helped pay for my books, tuition and nursing fees. It has also enabled me to move closer to Atlanta, and I am less stressed every day because I don’t have to drive so far. The scholarship has also benefited me in that I have not had to maintain a job and therefore I can focus on school.

“I am one of the first women in my family to attend a college. I do believe I will make a difference in my community given the shortage of nurses, and I will also be getting self-satisfaction because nursing is a fulfilling profession. I couldn’t be happier with my scholarship and the opportunities it has provided for me.”

Kaiser Permanente helps nursing students and other health profession students cross another barrier: health insurance. They may qualify for up to two years of insurance at a reduced premium through the Bridge Program. Since 2004, 108 GSU students have benefited from that help, Yancey said.

“Kaiser Permanente really understood the complexities of the nursing shortage, beyond the need for scholarships,” said GSU nursing professor Susan Kelley, who served as dean from 1999 to 2011. “Their willingness and vision to be flexible was critical to our growth. They ask, ‘What benefits you the most?’ and they listen and generously support those answers.”

The funding has helped faculty attain doctorates and closed the salary gap between academic and clinical work. That helps GSU’s nursing school recruit and retain skilled faculty from diverse backgrounds.

“The Kaiser Permanente funding was one of the reasons I even considered working on my doctorate,” said clinical instructor Traci Sims, who hopes to attain that degree in 2014. “I could not reduce my workload to part-time due to financial constraints. I chose to go part-time to school, but even then the increased costs were daunting to me.

“The funding helped me balance the financial burdens and make it more realistic to pursue my doctorate. I could buy the books and needed materials as well as help pay for gas – otherwise, those expenses would have added tremendous financial stress to my already stressful load. I am very thankful for the Kaiser Permanente funding, and I feel supported, which is crucial as I pursue my doctoral studies.”

“The funds from Kaiser were key to my being able to take the partial leave and pay my school expenses tremendously,” said Eva Mae Horne, a Ph.D. candidate.

“I’m on track to finish my Ph.D. program in three years as compared to the normal four to five year span,” said clinical assistant professor Dawn W. Aycock. “I’ve also been able to promote my research interest, which is stroke awareness and prevention in young African-American adults.”

Kimberee Phelps, a nursing alumna (B.S.N., 1987) and Kaiser Permanente area operations director, also serves as an advisory board member for the nursing school.

“Most nurses who come from a clinical background, such as GSU, make assessments from a 360-degree perspective and look at people holistically,” said Phelps. “That’s what Kaiser Permanente is about, too, by stressing prevention, affordable health care in the community…. I think the biggest contribution that Kaiser Permanente has made at GSU has been to help older students with families go back to school and graduate and encourage all nursing students that there are organizations willing to give back for the growth of health care.”

“The reports regarding shortages of health professionals in Georgia are still very worrisome,” Yancey said. “We are pleased to part of a solution to attract health care professionals – doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and social workers – to serve now and to meet the future needs.”

—By Michelle Hiskey; Contact Kim Cretors, (404) 413-3424