HRSA awards $3 million grant to HSC

Waridibo Allison, MD, PhD, FACP, CPE, FIDSAThe University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth recently was awarded a $3 million grant to address the growing shortage of health care workers who care for people with HIV.

The scope of the work — funded by the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration over a five-year period — is sprawling and incorporates multiple organizations across several disciplines.

Dr. Waridibo Allison, vice president of health policy and director of HSC’s Center for Health Policy, will lead a collaborative group of organizations to integrate the National HIV Curriculum e-Learning Platform into health professions programs across the southern U.S. The NHC is a federally funded platform that provides the latest in HIV science, treatment protocols, practices and federal guidelines for educating health professionals on the optimal care for and treatment of people with HIV.

Allison, who is also an associate professor in the HSC Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine’s Department of Medical Education & Health Systems Science and director of the national Rural Telementoring Training Center, said her group will focus on health professions programs that have students who tend to remain in the South after graduation. The South is disproportionately affected by the HIV epidemic. Through this funding, she hopes to increase the number of health care workers caring for people with HIV in communities most in need.

“The HIV provider workforce in the U.S. is in decline,” she said. “The gap between available HIV providers and people with HIV who need their care continues to grow. This need is particularly pronounced across the southern U.S., where the majority of those with HIV live including those in rural communities that face persistent barriers to equitable health care.”

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data show the southern U.S. experiences the greatest burden of HIV infection and illness, and lags far behind other regions in providing quality HIV prevention and care. Residents of the southern U.S. also face a greater chance of becoming infected with HIV and are more likely to die from the disease compared with other parts of the country.

One of the key goals of Allison’s team will be to establish a project known as the Targeted Access Knowledge and Education (TAKE) on HIV for Health Professions Programs. The project will use an evidence-based, sustainable and replicable approach to integrating the NHC e-learning program into health professions programs and to collecting, synthesizing and sharing its data.

Other foundational goals of the project include incorporating telementoring; providing tailored training and technical assistance; recruiting underrepresented minorities into the HIV provider workforce; ensuring the findings and products of the grant are free and widely available to the public; and more.

Co-investigators for the project are Dr. Stacey Griner, an assistant professor in the HSC School of Public Health, and Dr. Crystal Hodge, assistant professor in the HSC College of Pharmacy.

“To end the HIV epidemic in the U.S., it is imperative that there is an adequate workforce with sufficient HIV knowledge and expertise to facilitate HIV prevention, screening, diagnosis and treatment,” Allison said. “We are grateful to have this funded opportunity to bolster HIV knowledge within the health professions workforce pipeline. It is an opportunity we will not waste.”

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