Two UAMS Medical Students Committed to Primary Care Receive $20,000 Scholarships

By Holland Doran

Andrew Briggler, from Hattieville, and Nathan Schandevel, from Paragould, are this year’s recipients of the Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield Primary Care Scholarship, which has been presented to two UAMS College of Medicine juniors or seniors annually since 2012 through a $1 million endowment grant from the state’s largest insurer in partnership with UAMS.

The scholarship is part of a broad effort to produce more family medicine, general internal medicine and general pediatrics doctors for Arkansas, especially in rural areas where access to primary care is limited. Portions or the entirety of 52 of Arkansas’ 75 counties have been designated as federal Primary Care Health Professional Shortage Areas. Approximately 44 percent of Arkansans live in rural areas.

Primary care physician shortages are projected to increase substantially in the years ahead as the state’s population continues to age and require more medical care, and as more Arkansans, newly insured as result of health system reform, seek primary care services.

“On behalf of our members, Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield is focused on the issue of access to quality health care and believes that this scholarship award partially addresses that concern,” said Mark White, the company’s president and CEO. “If we consider the future and the additional Arkansans who will be receiving necessary care as result of the Affordable Care Act, our investment is going to make an incremental difference as we seek solutions to improving the health status of all of our citizens.”

“We are doing everything we can to encourage our students to give serious thought to practicing primary care in Arkansas, especially in areas where they are needed most,” said College of Medicine Dean G. Richard Smith, M.D. “Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield has been a very strong ally in our work to improve Arkansans’ access to high-quality, patient-centered primary care, and we are grateful for this endowed scholarship.”

Briggler graduated from Wonderview High School in Hattieville and received his undergraduate degree at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. After graduating from the UAMS College of Medicine in May 2015 he plans to complete his residency in internal medicine and practice in Arkansas.

For Briggler, living in rural Conway County and traveling 11 miles to Morrilton to see the same doctor, Michael Koone, M.D., through the years was formative.

“Not only did he deliver me, but I went to him for every sports physical, illness, and broken bone growing up,” Briggler said in his scholarship application. “He also took care of all of my siblings, parents, and even my grandmother. The relationship (and trust) we developed with him over all those years has remained with me to this day, and I actually had the chance to work with him the summer after my first year of medical school.”

Schandevel graduated from Crowley’s Ridge Academy in Paragould and received his undergraduate degree at Harding University in Searcy. After graduating from the UAMS College of Medicine in May 2015 he plans to complete his residency in family medicine and return to northeastern Arkansas to practice.

“I had the opportunity to spend a month in Paragould working with Dr. Stacey Noel through a UAMS-sponsored preceptorship,” Schandevel said in an interview. “That family practice clinic was such a vital aspect in the health care of so many in the community. It opened my eyes not only to the importance of quality primary care doctors, but also the serious need for more doctors just like him in Arkansas. Arkansas is a special place with very special people. They deserve top-notch care.”

For many students, the high cost of medical school and burden of educational debt can be a factor in pursuing higher-paying specialties instead of primary care. In 2013, the average cumulative educational debt for UAMS medical graduates was $145,888. The average educational debt for all U.S. public medical school graduates was $162,736.

“This scholarship makes a difference to me personally because I have heard more than enough stories from doctors still paying down debt 15-20 years after graduating medical school,” said Schandevel. “Committing to primary care has required some prayerful trust that the financial situation will work itself out. This scholarship is wonderful affirmation to my commitment and allows me to focus more on becoming the physician my community needs.”

UAMS is the state's only health sciences university, with colleges of Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Health Professions and Public Health; a graduate school; a hospital; a main campus in Little Rock; a Northwest Arkansas regional campus in Fayetteville; a statewide network of regional campuses; and seven institutes: the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute, Harvey & Bernice Jones Eye Institute, Psychiatric Research Institute, Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging, Translational Research Institute and Institute for Digital Health & Innovation. UAMS includes UAMS Health, a statewide health system that encompasses all of UAMS' clinical enterprise. UAMS is the only adult Level 1 trauma center in the state. UAMS has 3,275 students, 890 medical residents and fellows, and five dental residents. It is the state's largest public employer with more than 12,000 employees, including 1,200 physicians who provide care to patients at UAMS, its regional campuses, Arkansas Children's, the VA Medical Center and Baptist Health. Visit or Find us on Facebook, X (formerly Twitter), YouTube or Instagram.