Loan Repayment Program Testimonials

Health Professions Education Foundation (HPEF) testimonials highlight the experiences of award recipients and their service to California’s medically underserved communities.

Allied Healthcare Loan Repayment Program (AHLRP)

Kathy Rozell
2013-2014 Allied Healthcare Loan Repayment Program Awardee 
Chula Vista, CA

My name is Kathy and I have been working in nonprofit agencies since graduating from college in 2004. For almost ten years, I have worked in an agency that services underprivileged families whose children suffer from mental illness. Most of the families’ children have suffered numerous traumas and have been psychiatrically hospitalized or have been screened for hospitalization due to the degree of their symptoms and danger to themselves or others. Our goal is to provide the family hope while stabilizing their children and family, providing a safety net and linking them to supports within their community and locating natural supports that they can utilize when our services close. My job is challenging but rewarding, knowing I am saving lives.

This HPEF award has helped honor the hard work that I have done and helped ease the burden of the loans that I accrued while going to school full time and raising three children after my divorce. I greatly appreciate the opportunity to be one of the chosen.

Lisa Nicholson
2013-2014 Allied Healthcare Loan Repayment Program Awardee
Van Nuys, CA

I am so excited to be an HPEF awardee! I cannot tell you how this award has released me from the load a burden debt causes. The first check came approximately 1-2 months ago, and I was so happy to be able to give such a large amount as payment! Thank God! I finally feel as if I am making true progress in paying off the loan amount instead of dropping pennies down a giant well. I used to get very discouraged and frustrated whenever the bill for my loan would come and whenever I looked at my pay check knowing I needed to make a payment and not seeing a way to make the payment bigger, so that it actually made a dent in the loan.

I am able to enjoy my work more now. And, because I know the award is tied to the work I do and the population I work with, it makes me feel an even deeper sense of dedication and commitment. I thank God for this award and all the people and behind the scenes work and people who make it possible. It is truly a blessing not just to me but to my family as well. You should have seen my husband’s smile when I told him about being blessed and chosen as an awardee!

Advanced Practice Healthcare Loan Repayment Program (APHLRP)

Hua Feng Kuan
2015-2016 Advanced Practice Healthcare Loan Repayment Program Awardee
Oakland, CA

The Advanced Practice Healthcare Loan Repayment Program has allowed me to be the kind of dentist I want to be: one who provides excellent quality of care for a community I feel very passionate about. I have the opportunity to treat my patients with the compassion and empathy they may not be accustomed to receiving, and that is what keeps me motivated. I firmly believe that everyone deserves the right to be treated with respect and care, and the program has made it possible for me to bring this mentality to my practice. Thanks to the Advanced Practice Healthcare Loan Repayment Program, I can be a good dentist and a good public servant.

Nou Her
Advanced Practice Healthcare Loan Repayment Program Awardee
Paradise, CA

My name is Nou Her. Currently I am working at the Feather River Health Center, which is through the Feather River Hospital in Paradise, CA. I have been an employee here since May 2005 and as a Registered Nurse and a Family Nurse Practitioner since October 2009. I deeply enjoy providing primary care and services to low income families and to many patients, many of whom are 18 years of age and older. I serve an average of 20-25 patients daily, many having multiple health conditions. However, I do not allow that to be an obstacle in my providing my patients with the care that they seek.

My life experiences have influenced me in wanting to work with the less fortunate in the community who are much like how I was prior to settling in the United States. I come from a large family, with me being the youngest of eleven siblings. Currently I have two surviving half siblings that are still alive in Laos, but the majority of my siblings passed away during the Vietnam War. My mother and half-brother passed away on February 6, 2014 and August 10, 2012 respectively. Growing up in poverty was difficult, where wealth was hard to come by and education was not an option. The only way to survive was farming. We woke up before the sun rises and return long after the sun sets. Fortunately, my mother, half-brother, and I migrated to the United States in June 1990 where I had the opportunity to get an education and advance in my career choice. Being the first and only child in my entire family to attend school and graduate from college, I was motivated and devoted to serving my community and providing them with health care.

I have lived in Butte County, an underserved community, since the day my family settled in the United States on June 20, 1990. Throughout my life I have encountered many people with challenges in accessing health care. I pursued a career in the health care profession so that I can serve those people who had disadvantages similar to those that I have faced, whether they are wealth, education or special conditions.

Being the head of my household, I face economic crisis like everyone else due to a tough economy. However, without the burden of a high loan on my shoulders, I have been able to focus on achieving my career goals to better serve the low income and retired members of my community who have restricted access to health care.

I continue to participate in educating my peers and health care professionals in western medicine about the Hmong culture. There is currently still a gap between the Hmong community and western medicine. I am doing the most I can to be the bridge that helps minorities overcome their fear of language barriers and the unknown when it comes to seeking western health care.

Jennifer Lallo
2013-2014 Advanced Practice Healthcare Loan Repayment Program Awardee
Fresno, CA

I am a relatively new oncology Nurse Practitioner at Fresno Regional Community Hospital. The majority of the patients that I care for are medically indigent. Due to environmental exposures (i.e. pesticides) and lack of access to health care, many our patients come to us with a wide variety of late cancer diagnoses, such as lung and colon cancers, lymphoma, etc. The generous grant from HPEF has helped me with my school loan debt, which is a significant financial burden. This grant has helped relieve some of the monthly financial stress related to school loan repayment and I am not forced to get a second job. This in turn benefits my patients because I have more time and energy to devote to them during their cancer journey. Working in oncology can be emotionally draining at times but I absolutely love what I do. This is more than a job for me; it is a calling. I am very grateful for HPEF’s support.

Michele Webber
2013-2014 Advanced Practice Healthcare Loan Repayment Program Awardee
Fresno, CA

I am a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner who serves adults with a severe mental illness in Fresno County from my home in Southern California. As an employee of American Telepsychiatrists, I use telepsychiatry, a form of secure video conferencing, to Turning Point of Central California Clients. Telepsychiatry is currently one of the most effective ways to increase access to psychiatric care for individuals living in underserved areas. My clients easily adjusted to the technology and feel very comfortable with this unique service delivery system. I have learned that being highly flexible is key when providing telepsychiatry services. My clients know that if they have a medication question or have new symptoms, they can also come by on our ‘Telepsych Day’ and we will fit them into the schedule.

I am a three-time recipient of the scholarship and loan repayment program. Knowing that there was a possibility that my loans would be repaid inspired me to continue my nursing education. I also work for the Orange County Health Care Agency for Correctional Health Services serving the mental health needs of adult inmates. Trained in the Recovery Model, I started my career as Social Worker, specifically serving persons with severe mental illness who had forensic involvement. My specialized expertise led me into opening mental health programs throughout California that are funded by County General Funds and the Mental Health Services Act. I opened and worked in outpatient, assertive community treatment, residential and crisis programs in eight different rural and urban California counties. As I reflect on my 20 year career as a clinician, I can’t see myself doing anything else. People can and do recover from mental illness, and I am fortunate to be a part of the process.

Carrie Kowalski
2013-2014 Advanced Practice Healthcare Loan Repayment Program Awardee
Venice, CA

I am a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner who serves adults with a severe mental illness in Fresno County from my home in Southern California. As an employee of American Telepsychiatrists, I use telepsychiatry, a form of secure video conferencing, to Turning Point of Central California Clients. Telepsychiatry is currently one of the most effective ways to increase access to psychiatric care for individuals living in underserved areas. My clients easily adjusted to the technology and feel very comfortable with this unique service delivery system. I have learned that being highly flexible is key when providing telepsychiatry services. My clients know that if they have a medication question or have new symptoms, they can also come by on our ‘Telepsych Day’ and we will fit them into the schedule.

I am a three-time recipient of the scholarship and loan repayment program. Knowing that there was a possibility that my loans would be repaid inspired me to continue my nursing education. I also work for the Orange County Health Care Agency for Correctional Health Services serving the mental health needs of adult inmates. Trained in the Recovery Model, I started my career as Social Worker, specifically serving persons with severe mental illness who had forensic involvement. My specialized expertise led me into opening mental health programs throughout California that are funded by County General Funds and the Mental Health Services Act. I opened and worked in outpatient, assertive community treatment, residential and crisis programs in eight different rural and urban California counties. As I reflect on my 20 year career as a clinician, I can’t see myself doing anything else. People can and do recover from mental illness, and I am fortunate to be a part of the process.

Bachelor of Science Nursing Loan Repayment Program (BSNLRP)

Jessica Vargas
Bachelor of Science Nursing Loan Repayment Program, 2017-2018
Associate Degree Nursing Scholarship Program, 2011
San Bernardino, CA

My name is Jessica Vargas and I received the Bachelor of Science Nursing Loan Repayment Program (BSNLRP) in 2017. I am 30-year-old fulltime mother to a 3-year-old little boy, a full time Intensive Care Unit Registered Nurse, and a full-time student pursuing my Master of Science Nursing (MSN)/Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) degree. I do not have any friends or family members who graduated high school, let alone in the medical field. The desire to pursue healthcare was, I guess you can say, my calling. I have always loved science and am a sucker for helping anyone in need, so nursing was it for me, no question.

Being brought up in a single parent, poor household, I qualified for financial aid, but after becoming an RN, I struggled to find opportunities for financial assistance to support my education. I worked full time during nursing school to help pay my education costs, because financial aid only covered so much. Like so many others, I needed more financial assistance for books and school supplies. I found the Health Professions Education Foundation (HPEF) on my own because I looked for it when I needed help the most. I applied and, by the grace of God, was awarded through the Associate Degree Nursing Scholarship Program (ADNSP). I then pursued a Bachelor of Science Nursing degree, but was hesitant because I did not want the burden of educational debt. My hunger for knowledge of my profession convinced me to go back anyway. I completed my BSN, applied for the BSNLRP, and, again with God’s grace behind me, was awarded my second HPEF award.

I worked for the California Department of Corrections for two years for my ADN award, and I currently work at Riverside Community Hospital in the Medical Intensive Care Unit. With the funding from HPEF I can pay down my loans, afford living expenses for my son and myself, and provide my son with day care, early education. Working in poverty-stricken areas makes one realize that our health cannot be taken for granted, and people are not willfully non-compliant, but often do not understand or cannot afford prescribed medication. I feel knowing this makes me a better nurse, because I can empathize, educate, and, in my future FNP practice, be more resourceful by connecting my patients to affordable and quality care.

We in the healthcare profession love being asked questions and feeling that patients are genuinely interested in caring for themselves. In turn, we learn from patients about how to be better educators and communicators, and improve our system of care. It is vital for people to know that illness does not mean disability and nothing, but themselves, can stop them from being healthy.  Most importantly, I would like to convey to the community the power of the act of kindness. We don’t know who will be taking care of us when we are in need, so be kind to one another.

Angelica Verduzco
Bachelor of Science Nursing Loan Repayment Program, 2018
Visalia, CA

My name is Angelica Verduzco, and I was proud to receive the Health Professions Education Foundation’s Bachelor of Science Nursing Loan Repayment Program award in 2018. I chose to be in the medical field because I enjoy helping others and educating them about the importance of health maintenance. I recall going to the doctor’s office as a little girl and noticing how my parents’ concerns were not properly addressed. My parents were both born in Mexico and only spoke Spanish. At times medical providers would utilize me as an interpreter when I was not yet even a teenager, and I just tried my best to interpret terms that I did not fully understand. Some of the providers would not even allow me to finish interpreting for my parents and were already walking out the door, which upset my parents and me. I told myself I wanted to make a difference in the medical field. I would listen to everyone’s needs and treat them equally, regardless of the language barriers, cultures, religions that I may encounter. My mother and I both battled and beat cancer, so I can empathize with patients and family when it comes to feeling scared and vulnerable when going through an illness. Patients trust their health care providers to treat them with respect and provide the utmost care to ensure good outcomes.

I became a Registered Nurse in 2008 and decided to pursue my Bachelor of Science Nursing degree, which I obtained in 2013. I currently live in a small town called Porterville and work as a Registered Nurse at Kaweah Delta Medical Center in Visalia. I recently decided that I want to continue my education and obtain a Master of Science degree as a Family Nurse Practitioner. I was still paying a student loan from when I obtained my BSN degree, and I did not want to put myself in further student loan debt until my current loan was paid off. I applied for the BSNLRP and was blessed with the award in 2018. I am currently in school pursuing my next career and cannot express enough how grateful I am to have received this award from this incredible foundation. It has allowed me to have peace of mind as I continue my journey.           

I look forward to becoming a Family Nurse Practitioner and educating my community on the importance of self-care and preventative care. Some individuals feel they will be judged for their lifestyle choices and refuse to seek any medical care, or they don’t trust their providers to be honest about their choices which leads to non-compliance and poor outcomes. I believe rural communities face challenges when seeking medical care. There does not seem to be enough providers in the area for the number of patients who need care. Patients get rushed during their appointments and do not get their needs and concerns addressed appropriately. Rural areas also do not have readily accessible specialty doctors and patients are sometimes required to drive to a larger city to obtain specialty care which can be a burden to them. This is one of the many reasons that I want to make a difference in my community by providing preventative care as a future Family Nurse Practitioner.

Matthew Smith
2013-2014 Bachelor of Science Nursing Loan Repayment Program Awardee 
Sacramento, CA

I am extremely grateful to the OSHPD organization for the amazing work they do to ensure quality, comprehensive care is delivered to the people in our communities that need it the most. I chose to work at the UC Davis Medical Center, despite opportunities to make more money elsewhere, because they pride themselves in being on the front lines of healthcare delivery to Sacramento’s most needy populations. I feel blessed and honored to have been awarded this loan repayment opportunity. Nursing was my second career, so I was challenged by starting college over again at 25. The climate in the greater Sacramento region for being accepted into BSN nursing programs is extremely competitive and requires near perfect grades in pre-requisite classes. Knowing this and wanting more than anything, a career devoted to taking care of people and their families, I quit work and took out loans to support my family. I had to focus on getting the grades I needed to succeed in this career. We had a child while I was in nursing school, putting a little more strain on the family. This award will be a great comfort, supporting all the sacrifices we made as a family, so I could pursue a truly meaningful career dedicated to taking care of other people. This award from HPEF takes some “sting” out of the sacrifices my family endured, so I could pursue a career taking care of others’ loved ones and will relieve some of the burden pursuing my dreams put on the ones I love. Thank you, and I am forever grateful!

Licensed Vocational Nurse Loan Repayment Program (LVNLRP)

Kimberly Cocilova
Licensed Vocational Nurse Loan Repayment Program, 2015
Lake Almanor, CA

My name is Kim Cocilova, and I received an award through the Licensed Vocational Nurse Loan Repayment Program (LVNLRP) in 2015. I live in Lake Almanor, California, and during my service obligation, I worked at a local clinic serving the health care needs of the rural community. This award helped me pay back part of the educational loan I had to take out when I was pursuing my LVN degree.  The HPEF staff were so helpful if I had questions, and they always want the best for recipients of the program. I am so grateful to the people at the Health Professionals Education Foundation for that opportunity. Once I finish paying off my loan I plan on going back to school to become an Registered Nurse.

Licensed Mental Health Services Provider Education Program (LMH)

Veda Stalling
Licensed Mental Health Services Provider Education Program (LMH), 2013-2014 and 2017-2018
Plumas Lake, CA

My name is Veda Stalling and I am a health care social worker who received the Licensed Mental Health Services Provider Education Program award. This award helps me to reduce the debt that I have incurred while pursuing my education. The award also motivates me to stay employed in health care because the award is available in this setting. I currently work for a hospital that provides care to a diverse population of patients, which includes those who are under-served. Ultimately, as a young person I had a passion to serve those who needed support meeting their needs as well as their family’s needs. I found health care to be a profession where most people seek access at some point and where doctors and nurses are often the first connection to assist people with identifying their mental health and other needs. When I was younger, there were so many opportunities where a doctor or nurse could have intervened to assist me and my family with our problems, as I often came in contact with doctors and not social workers. As a health care social worker, I find health care settings as a great place to engage patients in recognizing their mental health and social needs as well as accessing services. While doctors and nurses often focus on the physical health needs of a patient, social workers are there to help other providers consider the social needs of patients and the social determinants of health when determining health outcomes. With new models of integrated and patient-centered health care, there are so many opportunities to provide preventative and comprehensive health care in a collaborative manner. My hope is that social workers will be available to all patients, in all health care settings, and will be recognized as providers that should be able to bill for all services that they provide to patients.

Chris Link
Licensed Mental Health Services Provider Education Program (LMH), 2015-2016 and 2017-2018
Santa Ynez, CA

My name is Chris Link and I have been a clinical psychologist since 2015. I was a recipient of the Licensed Mental Health Services Provider Education Program (LMH) award in 2015 and 2017. At a young age, I developed a passion for serving others, and, after much exploration, I discovered that a career as a psychologist would provide a wonderful opportunity to live this aspiration of mine on a daily basis. Throughout my training and career, I have been dedicated to serving at-risk and vulnerable populations. This has included providing services to medically fragile children in a hospital setting and working with low-income, culturally diverse clients in a variety of community mental health agencies. I have also been able to provide services in Spanish to monolingual Spanish-speaking clients and have invested considerable time and personal resources towards developing and strengthening my ability to do so.

Since 2014, I have worked at a tribal health clinic on a Native American reservation in the Santa Ynez Valley. I provide services to both the monolingual Spanish-speaking and Native American populations, two historically marginalized and underserved communities. Many of the patients we serve often have limited financial means and struggle with a multitude of different medical issues and psychosocial stressors; thus, they are very much in need of quality mental health services. These health concerns seem especially prominent these days, given how the current sociopolitical landscape has exacerbated the specific issues and overall stress level that burdens many of the patients we see.

Although I work only 30 miles from Santa Barbara, the town where I grew up and currently live, the clinic is located in a much more rural setting, where mental health services are far less accessible. I feel very proud and fortunate to work at one of the few integrated healthcare clinics in the greater area that does offer these services, and is committed to both treating and empowering these communities. I can also definitively say, if not for the 2017 LMH award, it would be extremely challenging to be able to work at this type of community healthcare setting I enjoy so much, due to my sizeable student loan debt. I am so grateful to be a beneficiary of this program and hope that more awards such as these are made available to candidates dedicated to serving those in our society who are most vulnerable and underserved. I can attest, first-hand, that these programs truly do make a tangible difference in the lives of many.

Elsa Torres
Licensed Mental Health Services Provider Education Program – 2016
San Diego, CA

My names is Elsa M Torres and I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and a 2016 recipient of the Licensed Mental Health Services Provider Education Program (LMH). I oversee a program at a non-profit agency in the County of San Diego that provides services for at-risk youth between 6-18 years of age. Many of these youth face challenges such has poverty, academic issues, family stressors, trauma, violence, limited access to resources and healthcare disparities.

I was inspired to be a therapist when I was in 7th grade; I knew I wanted to make a difference in people’s lives. My life experiences have driven me to help others, as I recognize how these experiences can create a positive or negative impact in someone’s life and their future. Furthermore, my profession is so rewarding; it’s truly amazing to witness the changes people work so hard to make to improve their lives and their relationships.

Access to services for mental health treatment is sorely lacking, and insurance rates continue to rise, creating a barrier to accessing these services and increasing the risk of deteriorating health. Additionally, attitudes about mental health services have an impact on youth, adults and families and their willingness to seek services.

On a daily basis, I see how valuable and necessary the mental health profession is to the community. I am proud to be an LMH awardee, which has provided me the opportunity to pay off student loans, while continuing to serve those who face mental health challenges, including the youth in my program.

Janet Mojica Lewis
Licensed Mental Health Services Provider Education Program (LMH), 2015
Riverside, CA

My name is Janet Mojica Lewis, and I was a recipient of the Licensed Mental Health Services Provider Education Program (LMH) award in 2015. I am employed by the County of Riverside, where I have been working for two years as a clinical therapist, and I provide mental services for children, adults, and older adults. I chose to pursue this profession because I have a family member with mental health issues, and I see first-hand how it can affect the functioning and dynamics of a family. I began my degree in counseling psychology because I wanted to learn how I could help my family and others who also have family member with mental health issues.      

This award has given me the opportunity to pursue my career as a pre-licensed clinician, live where I grew up, and provide mental health services to my community, including individual therapy, crisis services, family therapy to clients of all ages, and education on the importance of mental health wellness. In working at the local community mental health clinic, I have been able to provide hope and encouragement to people who struggle with hardships that life brings. I know that I want to continue working with my local community in bringing awareness to all families of the reality of mental health issues so that it may encourage them to seek help and resources.                            

Jaseon Outlaw
2013-2014 Licensed Mental Health Services Provider Education Program 
San Leandro, CA

Being awarded the Health Professions Education Foundation award has had a positive effect on my career. The award has allowed me to serve a broader subset of our population, particularly individuals who are unable to cover my fee. By serving Oakland and the surrounding cities of Oakland, I reach a fairly wide range of clients, who are less likely to seek mental health services.

I completed graduate studies, the pre-doctoral residency, and a postdoctoral fellowship out-of-state and I really wanted to give back to my community. I am honored to serve as one of the few African-American male psychologists under 40 in the area.

I thank the Health Professions Education Foundation for allowing me this opportunity.

Joaquin Galeano
2013-2014 Licensed Mental Health Services Provider Education Program 
Palm Springs, CA

I believe almost every child has the potential to be a major contributor to society when adults tap into his or her strengths and when adults support the child’s abilities and foster his or her skills. There seems to be the assumption that disadvantaged children will not go that far due to their communities or environments. HPEF has given me the opportunity and encouragement to continue working with underserved communities, and underprivileged, children in an attempt to help children further develop their gifts.

For the purpose of this testimonial, I will refer to my student as R. R has had an extensive history of troubles at school due to behavioral problems. R was expelled from a regular school due to aggression, defiant behavior and tagging. As a result of these offenses, R was placed at an alternative school and was referred to mental health services. R was very resistant to mental health services at first, but once he developed rapport with this writer, he opened up and disclosed some painful early life history related to child abuse and neglect, as well as a history of multiple foster homes. R’s troubles appeared to have a strong connection with all this history of child maltreatment and abandonment.

Given R’s history of tagging, he was encouraged to express his artistic skills, thoughts and feelings in a more pro-social artistic way. R was encouraged to focus his skills toward messages that were uplifting, a message of hope for youth at his school. Thus, R was commissioned by school personnel to create a piece to display at school. He is currently working on his creation. R is proud of the opportunity that has been given to him. Adults tapped into his abilities. His tagging has evolved from a representation of anger and resentment, to an art of healing and an expression of hope and growth.

Mental Health Loan Assumption Program (MHLAP)

Steven M. Thompson Physician Corps Loan Repayment Program (STLRP)