WASHINGTON, DC - In an effort to help expand Rhode Island's primary health care workforce, U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) is encouraging Rhode Island's medical, dental, nursing, and mental and behavioral health care students to apply for newly expanded scholarships that are being funded by the new health insurance reform law.  Between now and June 9, 2011, approximately $28 million in scholarships is available through the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) Scholarship Program.  This program encourages students to pursue careers in primary care and practice in areas where there are shortages of  health professionals.

In exchange for a commitment to serve one year for each year of support, the scholarship includes payment for tuition and other educational costs, a monthly support stipend of $1,289 (before taxes), and assistance in finding a practice site upon completion of a training program.  Last year, the average award over the full-term of the scholarship was approximately $174,000 per student.  This funding was made available through a provision of the health insurance reform law, the Affordable Care Act, which Senator Reed supported. 

"This is a great opportunity for medical, nursing, dental, and mental and behavioral health students to pay for their schooling and serve their community.  Like many states across the country, Rhode Island faces a serious shortage of primary care physicians.  By building a strong workforce of doctors dedicated to providing quality primary care in our state, this program will ensure that patients have access to comprehensive primary care for years to come.  I encourage all eligible Rhode Islanders to take advantage of this opportunity," said Reed.

Administered by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), the NHSC Scholarship Program awards scholarships to students pursuing a career in primary care.   Upon graduation, scholarship recipients serve as full-time or part-time primary care providers between two and eight years at an NHSC site in a high-need Health Professional Shortage Area.

Since 1993, over 50 Rhode Island health professionals have received NHSC scholarships.   Currently, there are 35 NHSC providers fulfilling their service obligations in Rhode Island, including 16 providing primary medical care, 13 providing mental health care, and 5 providing dental care.

"A lot of young doctors and nurses want to focus on helping patients through primary care, but they are also saddled with debt that discourages them from practicing in their field of choice.  These scholarships will help more highly-qualified doctors and nurses put their talents to work helping patients in high-need fields like primary care," stated Reed.

Disciplines eligible for the NHSC scholarship program include: allopathic or osteopathic medicine, dentist (general or pediatric), nurse practitioner (primary care), certified nurse-midwife, physician assistant, or behavioral and mental health (graduate program).

Interested students can apply online at: www.NHSC.hrsa.gov/scholarship.  The 2011 NHSC Scholarship Program application cycle will remain open until June 9, 2011. 

This Thursday, May 19, the Division of National Health Service Corps will host two live "webinar" sessions at 3 p.m. and 10 p.m. EST for prospective scholars and partner organizations wishing to learn more about the application process, eligibility requirements, and the major program requirements.  Interested students may contact Senator Reed's office for more information.

In addition, primary care providers who have finished their education and training, and are ready to practice in medically underserved areas, can apply for NHSC loan repayment through May 26, 2011 at: http://nhsc.hrsa.gov/loanrepayment/.