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Northeast Oregon Area Health Education Center

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PMHNP Distance Program & Scholarships

Increasing the NEOAHEC Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP) workforce in eastern Oregon continues to be a priority through a partnership between NEOAHEC and the Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) PMHNP distance education program based in La Grande. This place-based learning opportunity gives students the flexibility to learn in their home community.

A PMHNP is an advanced practice nurse qualified to diagnose and treat patients experiencing mental health challenges. OHSU offers this graduate-level program designed to prepare students to provide psychotherapy and psychopharmacology to patients of all ages in a wide variety of settings. As people in rural areas have increased difficulty obtaining education without moving away from their communities, this distance program allows students to complete almost their entire course load virtually.

Darren Ramcharan, originally from Hermiston, completed the PMHNP Distance Program in June of 2023. When he first applied to OHSU, he was unaware of the distance option, and was going to have a difficult journey ahead of him, possibly needing to move to complete his degree. However, when he was accepted into the program, NEOAHEC sent him a postcard with information about a scholarship for the distance option. He was awarded the scholarship with the stipulation that he would practice in a rural area.

While Darren was participating in the program, he and his wife had two children, both of whom were diagnosed with cystic fibrosis. These diagnoses require significant medical care, and the commute from Pendleton to Tri-Cities and Portland was overwhelming. Because of this, his family had to move to Salem. Despite this move, Darren was able to find a way to continue to practice with an underserved population at the Coffee Creek Correctional Facility.

People like Darren are why NEOAHEC is committed to providing healthcare education resources to all students, regardless of their situation. Even though Darren’s pathway to becoming the health care professional he wanted to be didn’t lead him back to eastern Oregon, his success is a great example of his passion for caring for underserved communities and his connection to the ‘grow our own mission’ of NEOAHEC.

Scholarships for PMHNP students in eastern Oregon will be available after the new year through an endowment established with the OHSU Foundation by NEOAHEC and the Eastern Oregon Coordinated Care Organization (EOCCO). Please contact Meredith Lair at for more information.