This is another in a series of profiles of health care professionals who have benefited from the Massachusetts Loan Repayment Program. The MLRP works to increase access to comprehensive primary care in underserved areas, by providing up to $50,000 towards outstanding educational loans for health professionals who commit to work at an eligible health care organization for two full-time years.
Today we’re profiling Edith Skelly, a physician assistant (PA) at the Community Health Connections Family Health Center in Fitchburg.
Edith always had a desire to help people and their loved ones. Growing up she watched her father, a minister, provide spiritual and psychological support to people of all walks of life. Like her father, Edith found that she was interested in helping people — but she wanted to focus on people’s physical health.
Edith’s path to become a physician’s assistant took the scenic route. Fresh out of high school Edith joined Job Corps, a free education program from the federal government that helps young people learn a career. Job Corps provided Edith with the opportunity to earn her certified nursing assistant (CNA) certificate. In the following years, Edith worked in a variety of positions in the fields of health care and social services. All throughout, Edith never forgot her original passion to focus on helping people with their physical health, and soon after she enrolled in the Physician Assistant program at the University of New England.
Today Edith spends most of her work day at the school based health center (SBHC) at Fitchburg High School. SBHCs offer primary care and behavioral health services to kids at school, helping to eliminate barriers to care and reduce health disparities. Edith finds working with adolescents extremely rewarding. Beyond her clinical work, Edith enjoys opportunities throughout each day to educate students about their health. “I find it rewarding working with the adolescent population because I am establishing the groundwork for them to be their own advocates in obtaining health care,” she told us.
What’s more, students appreciate Edith’s ability to answer any questions or concerns they may have about their health. “The teens feel like they are being listened to. If they have a concern and you can address in it in a way they understand, they are more likely to practice positive health behaviors,” she added.
Edith’s work in healthcare is more than a job, it is her vocation. In her free time Edith serves as an advisor for the Health Occupation Student of America club, a group dedicated to educate and inspire the future healthcare workforce. (You can also learn more about HOSA on their Facebook page.)
The Massachusetts Loan Repayment Program has made Edith’s dream of working in a community health center a reality, “It’s a blessing to work in an environment that I love. And it’s a great feeling to not be stressed, knowing that my loans are being paid off.”
To find out more about the Massachusetts Loan Repayment Program, visit www.mass.gov/dph/primarycare.