Giving and Receiving

I came across an article on a a really great program that allows young people to give back, get their student loans paid off, and provide health services to those most in need. It’s not talked about enough, but it should be held up as an example of a federal health care program done right.

The National Health Services Corps, part of the Health & Human Services Administration, received a billion dollars in federal stimulus money this year to recruit primary care doctors and other health care providers to work in Medically Underserved Areas (MUAs) – mostly in rural locations – for a minimum of three to five years. In return, the students get federal money to help pay off their student loans, which run about $150K on average. The stimulus money allowed NHSC to recently recruit and enroll 5,000 new doctors.

Of course there are also plenty of frustrations for these practitioners – like limited or no Internet, lack of consistent cell service, no access to electronic medical records, and antiquated equipment. While some doctors decide that life isn’t for them, on average, 80 percent of Corps participants opt to stay and practice in their area after they have met their service commitment. Many go on to specialize in caring for populations most in need.

For anyone thinking about a career in health, think about this: NHSC will provide scholarship money for tuition, fees, and other related costs, along with a living stipend, if you train as a primary care doctor, dentist, nurse practitioner, certified nurse-midwifes or physician assistant.

The program has been around since 1972. Since then, 30,000 clinicians have served in the Corps, bringing high quality health care to places and people without access to even basic services. Last year, about 3,500 NHSC providers cared for 4 million people — changing their own and their patients’ lives. The Corps hopes to recruit another 2,800 students next year.

This is one government program that seems to be on the right track. What a great way to give back and do good.

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