New Health Care Law Helps Expand Primary Care Physician Workforce

7 years 8 months 1 day ago Thursday, February 16 2012 Feb 16, 2012 Thursday, February 16, 2012 1:31:00 PM CST February 16, 2012 in News
By: Veronica Polivanaya

COLUMBIA - The National Health Care Service Corps (NHSC) awarded $9.1 million in funding Thursday to place physicians in medically-underserved communities. The funding went to fourth-year medical students in 30 states and the District of Columbia, including one student from Columbia. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said the grants will help strengthen the health care workforce by getting more students to serve as primary care doctors. 

The Affordable Care Act, the new health care law, made the National Health Service Corps' Students to Service Loan Repayment Program possible. Administered by HHS' Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), the program provides loan repayment assistance of up to $120,000 to medical students in their last year of education. 

"The average medical school debt of the students receiving these awards is more than $200,000," said HRSA Administrator Mary Wakefield in a news release. "The Students to Service program relieves a tremendous debt burden, allowing them to follow their passion for primary care and serve some of the country's most underserved rural and urban communities."

Upon completion of a primary care service program, medical students must serve three years of full-time service or six years of half-time service in the rural and urban areas that need it most. 

Columbia resident and University of Missouri School of Medicine student Brady Didion is one of Thursday's award recipients. 

"Primary care in a rural location incorporates the areas that I have come to be passionate about - underserved populations and practice opportunities, the ability to develop long-term relationships, interventional and preventative opportunities, and being rooted and established in a community," Didion said in a news release. "People need doctors in rural areas, and I am excited to serve!"

Today's awardees will join the NHSC provides already providing primary care at more than 14,000 health care sites. The NHSC was established in 1972 and has connected over 41,000 primary health care practitioners to communities all over America. 

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