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IHS Impressions
Vol. 6, Issue 4
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Recovery Act Funds Open Up New Loan Repayment Options

recovery act logoThe Indian Health Service (IHS) Division of Oral Health (DOH) has good news for dental students seeking excellent career opportunities in uncertain economic times. A generous new program that offers dentists and dental hygienists up to $50,000 tax free toward the repayment of their educational loans is available in exchange for two years of rewarding work serving the health needs of American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) people.

The award is available through the National Health Service Corps (NHSC), which received $200 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) to support its loan repayment program. The NHSC extended its loan repayment program to IHS general dentists, pediatric dentists and dental hygienists to help stimulate the hiring and retention of dental professionals in shortage areas.

"The NHSC loan repayment program will help IHS extend services to American Indian and Alaska Native populations that are underserved, and it offers a terrific loan repayment opportunity for graduating dental students," says Timothy L. Lozon, DDS, Deputy Director of the IHS Division of Oral Health. "Why jump into the financial fire right now when you can work for IHS, earn a competitive salary and great benefits, gain invaluable clinical experience and provide much-needed dental care?"

The 2009 NHSC offer has been a boon to IHS, which by the end of July had awarded most of the $3.3 million set aside in 2009 for its own dentist and hygienist loan repayment program (LRP). The additional NHSC loan repayment funding will make it easier to recruit qualified dental professionals to fill clinical vacancies at IHS sites, which currently are at 19 percent, Dr. Lozon says.

While the IHS LRP provides recipients with up to $24,000 per year (including an allocation for taxes), recipients of the NHSC loan repayment program receive a maximum lump-sum award of up to $50,000 tax free for a two-year commitment. Interested candidates can apply for loan repayment from both the NHSC and IHS programs but may only accept a single award.

Award recipients of the NHSC and IHS loan repayment programs must agree to work in full-time clinical practice at an IHS facility or in an approved Indian health program for two continuous years from the date of the signed contract award. The NHSC award is currently limited to two years; individuals in the IHS LRP may apply for an additional $24,000 maximum per year until their educational debts are paid off. All qualified student loans for education leading up to the required professional degree are eligible for both the NHSC and the IHS loan repayment programs.

Eligibility requirements for the NHSC loan repayment program are similar to those of IHS. For more information about the NHSC loan repayment program, visit http://nhsc.hrsa.gov/loanrepayment/.

The NHSC loan repayment awards will be made on a first-come, first-served basis, so early application increases a candidate’s likelihood of funding. The termination date of the NHSC Loan Repayment program funded by the ARRA is September 30, 2010, but it may end sooner if funds are exhausted. The deadlines for NHSC loan repayment program award cycles are:

  • November 19, 2009
  • February 4, 2010
  • April 29, 2010
  • July 29, 2010

To apply for the NHSC loan repayment program, visit the agency’s loan repayment Web site at http://nhsc.hrsa.gov/loanrepayment and fill out an application. Most applications will be processed within eight weeks of the submission of a complete application (online application, supplemental paper forms and required documentation). You can find information about the IHS LRP at www.loanrepayment.ihs.gov.

"I recommend that candidates talk to an IHS recruiter before they apply for either the IHS or NHSC loan repayment programs so they’re aware of the intricacies of the various regulations affecting these programs," advises Dr. Lozon.

For regular updates on the status of the NHSC loan repayment program and other IHS DOH news, sign up for the IHS DOH listserv and visit the IHS DOH Web site at www.dentist.ihs.gov.

To contact an IHS dental recruiter, call (800) IHS-DENT (447-3368), email Dentaljobs@ihs.gov or visit www.dentist.ihs.gov.

Considering Loan Repayment?

Join the IHS Dental WebForum webcast to learn more about loan repayment opportunities. Registration information