UAA receives $4M grant to bolster health care workforce

by Green & Gold News  |   

School of Allied Health students and Associate Dean Kendra Sticka
With the recent award of a $4 million federal grant, UAA's College of Health will be making facility improvements, such as the diagnostic sonography procedure room, among others. (Photo courtesy of Thompson & Co. Public Relations)

UAA’s College of Health received a $4 million federal grant to support Alaska’s health care workforce by expanding key programs and making facility improvements. 

The grant enables UAA to graduate an additional 100 health care workers annually, reducing the state’s dependence on out-of-state recruitment and short-term travel workers. The expansion will allow for a Certified Nursing Assistants (CNA) skills lab, a diagnostic medical sonography procedure room and increased space for surgical technologist training. Additionally, the grant will fund an interprofessional operative suite designed for medical students, physician assistants and advanced student nurse practitioners. 

“This project in particular focuses on some of these professions that are in very high need, but don’t always come to the forefront,” said Kendra Sticka, associate dean at UAA’s College of Health. “It will allow us to nearly double the graduates from these programs for the next several years.” 

The announcement, made at the UAA Health Sciences Building by Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Alejandra Castillo, comes as Alaska sees an unprecedented health care workforce shortage. Effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have been compounded by limited on-site clinical placement opportunities, creating the need for campus-based, hands-on skills labs and an interprofessional operative suite. Health care workers aging into retirement, or experiencing burnout after working through the pandemic, has exacerbated this issue further.

“At the end of the day we have to think big, and we have to reimagine what’s possible,” said Assistant Secretary Castillo. “This $4 million investment is to really put the seed dollars to what the arc of the future is.”

Workforce expansion will also help reduce Alaska’s extremely high health care costs by increasing capacity for in-state hires, reducing out-of-state recruitment and travel costs, and bringing millions of dollars in out-of-state wages back to Alaska and Alaskans. 

The facility and program updates will also allow UAA to expand targeted outreach to diverse school-age youth, sharing the full continuum of health care career opportunities with Alaskans of all backgrounds and ensuring the workforce delivering care is reflective of the patients it will serve. 

Health care remains the fastest growing industry in the state, making up for approximately 11% of state wages, and this project provides an opportunity to ensure that growth remains sustainable for Alaska. 

This project is funded under the Economic Development Administration’s American Rescue Plan Economic Adjustment Assistance program.

Read more: Anchorage Daily News, Alaska's News Source, KTOO