Newswise — The federal Health Resources and Services Administration has awarded Penn State College of Medicine $2.2 million over the next five years to establish a primary care research fellowship, which will train investigators to address a range of physical and mental health challenges – including the opioid and mental health crises – that affect communities in central Pennsylvania and beyond. Senior researchers from the College of Medicine will partner with experts from across Penn State’s campuses and disciplines to train and mentor aspiring primary care researchers to increase access to care, improving care quality and outcomes and decreasing costs of health care.

A health needs assessment conducted by Penn State Health revealed that substance use disorders, drug overdoses and mental health conditions are the most pressing health concerns for communities in central Pennsylvania. In 2018, Pennsylvania recorded more than 4,400 fatal drug overdoses – ranking it third in the United States for overdose fatalities.

“The mental health and substance use disorder crises that affected our state before the pandemic have only worsened in the past year and a half,” said Dr. David Rabago, professor and vice chair of faculty development in the Department of Family and Community Medicine, who will oversee the fellowship. “Penn State will bring together a team of renowned experts in health care, public health sciences, health policy and community engagement to train researchers who can address these challenges with innovative solutions and improve the health of our communities for generations to come.”

The two-year postdoctoral fellowship welcomes applicants with doctoral degrees from a variety of disciplines including medicine, public health, psychology, social work and health administration. Rabago will recruit two fellows to start their training this fall. Beginning in year three of the grant, the fellowship will train up to five fellows per year. 

In addition to Rabago, Drs. Jennifer McCall-Hosenfeld, Ian Paul and Aleksandra Zgierska, faculty from Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center’s Divisions of General Internal Medicine and Academic General Pediatrics and Department of Family and Community Medicine, respectively, will lead the program.

Trainees will also have access to faculty experts from across the university, including Penn State Clinical and Translational Science Institute, the College of Medicine’s Woodward Center for Excellence in Health Sciences Education, Penn State Addiction Center for Translation, Edna Bennett Pierce Prevention Research Center, Penn State Social Science Research Institute, the Qualitative and Mixed Methods Core at the College of Medicine, Douglas W. Pollock Center for Addiction Outreach and Research, Penn State Center for Health Care and Policy Research, Penn State Consortium to Combat Substance Abuse, Penn State PRO Wellness, Penn State Center for Healthy Aging, Penn State Center for Women’s Health Research, Penn State Center for Big Data Analytics and Discovery Informatics, the College of Medicine’s Office of Diversity Equity and Belonging and the College of Medicine’s Departments of Public Health Sciences, Anesthesia and Perioperative Medicine, Psychiatry and Behavioral Health and Obstetrics and Gynecology.

 Learn more about the fellowship and how to apply.

About Penn State College of Medicine
Located on the campus of Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center in Hershey, Pa., Penn State College of Medicine boasts a portfolio of more than $100 million in funded research. Projects range from development of artificial organs and advanced diagnostics to groundbreaking cancer treatments and understanding the fundamental causes of disease. Enrolling its first students in 1967, the College of Medicine has more than 1,700 students and trainees in medicine, nursing, the health professions and biomedical research on its two campuses.