Patient Care

HRSA Scholarship Supports New NP’s Effort to Provide Primary Care to Underserved Patients

January 2016Jenny Wang

Family nurse practitioner Rory Caygill-Walsh (MS ’15) grew up in a large family, the fifth of six children, in Illinois. When she was 4 years old, her mother was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, too late for lifesaving treatment. Caygill-Walsh remembers well her family’s struggle to provide her mother with the best treatments and care.

She also remembers the nurses who helped along the way and who introduced her to the important role that health care providers can play in the lives of those caring for a sick loved one. Her mother passed away when she was 8 years old, but even now, Caygill-Walsh remembers many of the nurses who acknowledged her and what she was going through.

Then, in her 20s, after Caygill-Walsh had moved to California, her 25-year-old sister was diagnosed with cervical cancer. Caygill-Walsh moved to Michigan to become her sister’s main support and health advocate. Yet after several remissions, her sister passed away at the age of 32.

Because she wanted to help prevent needless casualties like her sister and mother, both of whom she believes could have been diagnosed earlier had they had better access to care, Caygill-Walsh decided to pursue a career in nursing.

NURSE Corps Opens the Door

After receiving her nursing degree from Samuel Merritt University in Oakland, Calif., Caygill-Walsh worked as an emergency room nurse for five years, where she encountered many vulnerable patients who lacked primary care. This experience inspired her to go back to school to earn her primary care nurse practitioner (NP) credential at UC San Francisco School of Nursing. A NURSE Corps scholarship paid for her entire tuition.

NURSE Corps is a federal government program administered by the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). The program’s goal is to build healthier communities in urban, rural and frontier areas by supporting nurses and nursing students committed to working in communities with inadequate access to care, through the NURSE Corps Scholarship Program and NURSE Corps Loan Repayment Program. Caygill-Walsh is one of over 2,200 nurses serving in the NURSE Corps nationwide.

She is fulfilling her NURSE Corps service commitment by working as an NP at LifeLong Medical Care, a community health care center in Berkeley. This allows Caygill-Walsh a unique opportunity to give back directly to a community that gave her access to health care when she was in her 20s and living in Berkeley.

“Providing quality care to the patients that we serve here is a huge honor and privilege,” she says. “The NURSE Corps Scholarship has provided me with this amazing opportunity to make a difference in my community, providing care to those who need it.”

Importance of Primary Care

Working at LifeLong Medical Care has not only made a huge difference in her life, the life of her family and the lives of her patients, but it also enables Caygill-Walsh to be a part of this country’s primary care solution. According to the HRSA website, “If the system for delivering primary care in 2020 were to remain fundamentally the same as today, there will be a projected shortage of 20,400 primary care physicians.”

“What I love most about working in primary care is focusing on preventative health care and screening services such as mammograms and cervical cancer screenings, and being able to educate people on how to stay healthy long-term and out of the ER,” she says.