MSU-Meridian announces $1.06 million grant

Sep. 18—Mississippi State University has received more than $1 million from AccelerateMS's Nursing and Allied Health Grant Program to support MSU-Meridian's growing expansion into health sciences.

Grant funds will be used to construct an interprofessional simulation space on the university's evolving health sciences campus in Meridian, according to the university. The facility will prepare future physician assistants, mental health providers and social workers, as well as support curriculum needs of the university's proposed Accelerated Master of Science in Nursing program.

"We are honored AccelerateMS recognizes the impact our health sciences programs have on the vital medical community in Meridian,"said Terry Dale Cruse, associate vice president and head of MSU-Meridian.

Furthermore, Cruse said, the grant will expand "the university's ability to take care of what matters through our innovative Master of Science in Nursing pre-licensure program."

AccelerateMS is a state agency tasked with workforce development strategy and delivery across Mississippi. The purpose of the AccelerateMS Nursing and Allied Health Grant Program is to grow the number of nursing and allied health training programs in the state and to help retain and graduate students in these programs, according to the website.

The AccelerateMS grant will be combined with $4 million The Riley Foundation has already given to support simulation space needs for MSU-Meridian's health care programs.

Ever since the addition of the Riley Campus in downtown Meridian, MSU-Meridian has been growing its health sciences programs.

MSU received approval back in February from the Board of Trustees of the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning to begin initial preparations for a master's degree program in nursing at the Riley Campus. Aimed at addressing the state's nursing shortage, the accelerated program will be the first graduate entry-level nurse licensure program in the state.

"A higher educated nursing workforce results in better patient outcomes," said Mary Stewart, who came aboard as MSU-Meridian's dean of nursing the beginning of July. "AccelerateMS reinforced our efforts to achieve that aim through our proposed pre-licensure MSN program. Mississippians will benefit from this generous award."

Currently, the proposed accelerated master's program is working toward Phase II approval, expected in early 2024, which would allow the program to admit students. If approval is granted, the program could begin admitting students as early as fall 2024.

Meanwhile, MSU-Meridian's Master of Physician Assistant Studies program continues to show success, graduating 18 students from its first cohort in May. The program is currently conducting interviews for its fourth cohort of students who will begin the program in January 2024.

"Consistent with national employment opportunities for physician assistants, the majority of graduates from our first cohort received two or more job offers upon graduation," said program director Shey Washburn. "As we continue our efforts to impact the health care shortages of Mississippi, the program is currently conducting interviews of highly accomplished students competing for one of 30 seats in the Class of 2026."

Additionally, the university received IHL approval in the spring for its first doctoral program in Meridian, a Doctor of Psychology degree. The addition of the Doctor of Psychology curriculum, along with the expansion of other behavioral and mental health degree programs, is an effort by MSU-Meridian to increase the number of graduates who are eligible for licensure to work locally in the mental health field among a shortage of mental health professionals in the state.

More than 20 students enrolled in the doctoral program this fall.

Contact Glenda Sanders at gsanders@themeridianstar.com.