Point of View: SPH Foundation supports new health care workers through scholarships

When the South Peninsula Hospital Foundation was founded nearly 20 years ago, the volunteer board knew they did not have the capacity to develop large programs, but wanted to find ways to raise funds to support the community. Working alongside the Kachemak Bay Campus, the Foundation decided to fund scholarship opportunities for students in the area to begin exploring the medical field.

“We knew we needed Certified Nursing Assistants and other medical staff in the hospital as we expanded, so we started the CNA Scholarship and eventually added the Allied Health Scholarship, which covers the prerequisites for nursing and similar fields,” Judith Lund, a long-time trustee of the Foundation said. “We knew we wanted to encourage people to get their foot in the door.”

And encourage people they did. Since the inception of the program, nearly 60 local students have received funding from the SPH Foundation for their studies, most of whom have gone on to directly work with South Peninsula Hospital, local health agencies, and healthcare statewide. Currently, four scholarships are offered each year at $1,000 each, but the Foundation is looking to expand these offerings.

In December of 2021, the Foundation was able to hire me as Executive Director, and I and the board went to work reaching out and building relationships with those who have received scholarships to find how they could improve access to educational programs.

Back in 2010, Christine Kulcheski was excited to hear there were options available.

“The Scholarship allowed me to take the CNA course at a time when I did not have an income because I was home taking care of my baby” she said. “It gave me a jump on getting into the healthcare field as well as helping me get accepted into the nursing program.” Christine recently received her Bachelors of Science in Nursing on top of being a Registered Nurse. She is still working with SPH.

The most recent recipient of the CNA Scholarship, Matthew Puckett, reached out to the Foundation with gratitude. Matthew is a phlebotomist at South Peninsula Hospital.

“I was trying to decide between this and one other program, and the ability to save on tuition with these funds made it very easy to decide. It’s an incredible opportunity I will continue to tell others about,” he said.

Likewise, when Cora Trowbridge received the CNA Scholarship in the spring of 2020, she jumped at the opportunity.

“The SPH Foundation scholarship provided me the opportunity to expand my professional certificates, which gave me a notch up on the employment ladder and increased my earning potential,” she said. “Knowing that the Homer community has faith in me is huge. The Scholarship boosted my confidence in my ability to serve in a healthy capacity and continues to expand my mentorships and friendships.”

Cora is currently a home-care provider in Homer.

Dotti Harness-Foster, a member of the Board of Trustees who spoke with a number of scholarship winners, was eager to offer ideas for further opportunities.

“Not only can we encourage more scholarships in the future, but offer more funding for each,” she said. “Knowing how much this has meant to medical professionals in the community begs the question, what else can we do?” She went on to suggest, “Perhaps we can encourage new scholarships with medical specialties and follow up our renewed relationships with career coaching.”

The Board of Trustees did not hesitate to invite Scholarship recipients as special guests to the upcoming fundraiser event, Bounty On the Bay, which will be held on Aug. 18 and is open to the public. For more information about the event and to learn more about the South Peninsula Hospital Foundation, please go to Foundation.sphosp.org.

Jeffrey Eide is the Executive Director of the South Peninsula Hospital Foundation.

South Peninsula Hospital Foundation scholarship recipient Matthew Puckett. (Photo provided)

South Peninsula Hospital Foundation scholarship recipient Matthew Puckett. (Photo provided)