BOONE – Samantha Kephart, a 2010 graduate of Appalachian State University, is one of four first-year students in Duke University’s Physician Assistant Program to receive the Primary Care Scholarship, a federal grant of $44,000 to pursue her degree.
A resident of Murphy, Kephart graduated from Appalachian’s College of Health Sciences with a bachelor’s degree in exercise science and minors in biology and psychology.
The Primary Care Scholarship Program strives to increase the number of primary care physician assistants practicing in underserved areas, especially in North Carolina. Kephart was selected by Duke faculty members to receive the scholarship based on academic merit and her interest in providing health care to underserved populations and communities. She will be placed in an underserved community for six months during her clinical rotations.
“Having the opportunity to be awarded the Primary Care Scholarship will relieve a great amount of my financial burdens for my physician assistant studies and will give me an opportunity to have in-depth training in the primary care setting,” said Kephart. “With a rotation being six months instead of one, I will be granted more responsibility, such as more participation in procedures and follow-ups with patients. I feel this opportunity will further prepare me to be a practicing physician assistant.”
Kephart said that her experience at Appalachian provided her with a firm foundation for graduate studies in the medical profession due to the exercise science program’s small class sizes and the ability to form relationships with professors.
“The exercise science department was more than willing to coordinate graduation requirements with requirements needed for acceptance into physician assistant schools I was applying to,” she said. “Equally important were the advising of Dr. Sue Edwards, the research assistant opportunity with Dr. Chishimba Mowa and health professions advising of Celeste Crowe. All the coordination of the departments at Appalachian provided a competitive edge for my acceptance into Duke’s physician assistant program.” Edwards and Mowa are both members of the Department of Biology faculty.
After her freshman year, Kephart began working full time during the summers at a nursing home in Murphy as well as working in an internal medicine clinic. She also worked part time at Glenbridge Health and Rehabilitation in Boone while attending classes at Appalachian. While at Appalachian, Kephart was treasurer of the Exercise Science Club and was active in the Health Professions Club. While an undergraduate, she also volunteered at the Community Care Clinic that serves residents of the Boone area with low income and no health insurance.
She said that being a part of the campus clubs provided great information and insight into the health profession. “Being the treasurer of the Exercise Science Club not only increased my leadership skills but also helped in the area of public speaking,” she said.
After graduation from the two-year physician assistant program, Kephart hopes to return to her hometown and work in a family medical clinic in a rural area. She knew she wanted to go into the health care profession after seeing her grandparents have to drive at least an hour to receive treatment for illnesses, she said.
“After volunteering and working in health care, I discovered the physician assistant profession and quickly decided it was for me. Physician assistants can write prescriptions, follow their own patients, assist in surgeries and perform routine procedures. It is one of the fastest-growing careers and has more flexible hours compared to others, which allows one to raise a family, which is what I want to do.”
Kephart also said that Appalachian has helped her to achieve success. “Success is achieving the personal and career goals that you have set for yourself. For me, these goals and dreams are providing health care to rural communities that are medically underserved but to also raise a family. Appalachian provided a great education that led me to Duke’s Physician Assistant Program. I will be a PA in little more than a year, so my dreams are coming true, and Appalachian was a significant factor in achieving them.”