Healthcare.gov - We wanted to make sure you didn't miss the good news. On Monday at the Eisner Pediatric and Family Medical Center in Los Angeles, Secretary Sebelius announced that the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) awarded $9.1 million in funding to medical students at schools in 30 States and the District of Columbia who will serve as primary care doctors and help strengthen the health care workforce.
The National Health Service Corps' Students to Service Loan Repayment Program, made possible by the new health care law, the Affordable Care Act, provides financial support to fourth year medical students who are committed to a career in primary care in exchange for their service in communities with limited access to care. This program provides loan repayment assistance of up to $120,000 to medical students (MDs and DOs) in their last year of education. In return, they commit to serve in a health professional shortage area upon completion of a primary care residency program.
Secretary Sebelius visited the Eisner Pediatric and Family Medical Center, which serves more than 26,000 patients each year. During a tour followed by a panel discussion about community health centers, doctors at the center said that the National Health Service Corps has helped them remain at the clinic. They have been able to continue serving their community without worrying about being able to make their monthly loan payments.
One of the Students to Service awardees this year is Eric Schluederberg, a 4th year medical student at Western University of Health Sciences in Pomona, California, who appeared at the Eisner Pediatric and Family Medical Center with Secretary Sebelius. Eric has a very compelling story inspired by his fiancée who has Spina Bifida.
"I always knew my calling was primary care, " Eric said. "I'm not a social researcher, and I'm not an economist. But it seems that there are a lot of underserved people in this nation, and that providing sound primary care is a good economic investment. For example, ensuring that pregnant women know to take folic acid supplements is one way to prevent the cost of the numerous surgeries required to help someone with Spina Bifida become an independent member of society."
And medical students all across the country will go in to communities that need help the most thanks to this funding.
Anna Gladston, a student at Michigan State University – College of Osteopathic Medicine has seen firsthand the need for expanding the primary care work force.
"As a resident of the city of Detroit I see how poor access to care can really ruin an individuals' health and life," Anna said. "Throughout my training I have met individuals who have not seen a doctor for over half their life and have let a problem that could've been treatable reach a level that is beyond repair because they didn't have a doctor to go to or they didn't have insurance. So much of the world health problems could be prevented and that is why I love primary care. So that we can cut disease off at the pass, preventing it before it starts."
Monica Mitcham, a student at the University of Texas – Medical Branch at Galveston is also a recipient of the NHSC award and speaks passionately about the importance of primary care in underserved communities.
"Having grown up in a resource-limited, poverty-stricken east Texas town and experienced first-hand the toll that access barriers can take on entire families, a seed of determination to bridge the socioeconomic health care divide was planted within me from an early age," Monica said. "Several years later, as a young lady facing the challenges of becoming a first generation college student, I reflected once again on the importance of primary care in underserved communities. These humble beginnings taught me an important lesson and cultivated within me a strong desire to dedicate myself to community building and strengthening through reaching out to all age groups as a family physician."
Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, this new program is allowing medical students to pursue their passion for primary care and serve some of the country's most underserved rural and urban communities, by relieving a tremendous debt burden.