TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - The University of Arizona will cover tuition for medical students who commit to practicing primary care in rural or under-served communities in Arizona for at least two years after completing residency.
The goal of the new scholarship program is to address physician shortages in Arizona and help lessen student debt.
Cazandra Zaragoza is a fourth-year medical school student at the UA and a participant in the program.
“The primary reason for pursuing this scholarship was the care and health of the people of Arizona,” she said. “I have deep roots here in the state and I aim to repay that.”
She calls herself a non-traditional student because she chose to take a gap between getting her undergraduate degree and going to medical school.
Zaragoza wanted to get married and start a family earlier in life than later. Her decision to have children before going to medical school was motivated by the death of her brother.
“He passed away unexpectedly so that made me want to start my own family and settle down,” Zaragoza said.
Another life loss pushed her to a career in medicine and develop a passion for helping under-served populations. Zaragoza lost her biological mother and was adopted at two weeks old.
“My biological mother was very poor, a working class woman, she cleaned houses for a living,” she said. “She had a treatable illness but was not able to access the healthcare and resources to get help.”
Her goal is to help those who don’t have access to healthcare.
“It really did influence a lot of what I chose to do with my life,” she said.
Zaragoza will graduate with her medical degree in May and then begin her residency.
The first 21 scholarship recipients from the UA College of Medicine in Tucson will receive recognition at a reception Friday.
Nearly 100 medical school students at UA medical schools in Tucson and Phoenix could receive free tuition through the program. The annual funding was approved by Arizona legislature in May.