Now is the time when acceptances are rolling in and with those acceptances financial aid paperwork and the harsh realities of the cost of higher education become more apparent. While there are fewer options for funding your graduate education than there are for your undergrad years, options DO exist. Here’s an opportunity to hear first hand from a former National Health Service Corps Scholar.
HealthOU: How did you find out about the National Health Services Corp program
Dr. Fraser Doh: I believe I first heard about the NHSC from watching a TV show where a physician went to practice in a rural area of Alaska. Or may have been from a colleague of my parents.
HealthOU: At what point in your academic career did you apply to the program?
Dr. Fraser Doh: At the end of college I was looking for some way to ensure medical school was inexpensive. I applied to the Army Medical Corps program and the National Heath Service Corp.
HealthOU: What was the length of your commitment with the program?
Dr. Fraser Doh: I committed 4 years to the NHSC. Which is basically exactly how much time I worked for them.
HealthOU: Outside of the obvious financial benefit :) what value or benefits foes the program offer to prospective applicants?
Dr.Fraser Doh: A guaranteed job after residency. Someone within the NHSC network will hire you and you may have multiple job offers thus allowing you some negotiation wiggle room. Also the obvious benefits of helping in an underserved area where you know your services are most needed. Possibly finding a job and a community for a lifetime
HealthOU: Students who are interested in the program may be deterred thinking they will end up having to practice in an area where they won’t be happy living, what would you say to them?
Dr. Fraser Doh: You can live anywhere for 2-4 years. The time will fly. Most of my peers are spending the first 10-20 years out of medical school paying down debt, which hampers them when purchasing homes and cars due to debt to income ratio.
Plus, speaking a second language will be a useful marketing tool and could increase your chances of getting a job in some more competitive locations. But you should research the available options before applying. Cities like Huntsville, AL have been on the list before. Also inner city options are often available for Spanish speakers.
HealthOU: Can you explain the process from getting accepted to medical school, deciding to participate in the program to actually being enrolled and practicing in a NHSC shortage area?
Dr. Fraser Doh: Once you are accepted you will already be in your first year of medical school. But the NHSC will retroactively take care of your loans. Then you will get a stipend each month similar to the student loan stipend to take care of living expenses. Because it is taxed it maybe slightly lower but you will often get a great income tax return each year upwards of a few thousand dollars. You will have to sign an official contract saying if you default that you are liable for 3 times the cost of medical school, an obvious deterrent from defaulting. In the last year of your residency you will get a few paid for trips and conference to job fairs just for the NHSC scholars. All of your trips to interview for jobs will also be paid for. The NHSC also pays for moving expenses for you and your spouse from wherever.
HealthOU: This program has a reputation for being competitive. what advice would you give to a prospective student?
Dr. Fraser Doh: To help with the competitive edge of the program show that you are interested in NHSC mission, that you have done your research and that you have staying power. They are looking for physicians who will stay past their commitment.
HealthOU: Has participating in the NHSC changed your perspective on healthcare delivery in America? If so how?
Dr. Fraser Doh: Yes the NHSC has changed my perspective on Healthcare delivery in the US. It has showed me that just like everything else the best healthcare is obtained when you have the most money. It has also showed me that being low-income in one state vs. another can put you at a disadvantage. I would rather be low-income in California as oppose to Georgia. And Virginia is better than Georgia but not as great as California.
HealthOU: Would you do it again if given the opportunity? Would you recommend the NHSC program to a prospective applicant
Dr. FrasierDoh: Yes I would do it again. In the 4 years there were definite times that I wished I lived in a different location but in the end it worked. My husband and I have a more well-rounded view of America from this experience. My son spent some of his early years in a more nurturing smaller environment. I have seen a variety of healthcare systems and now know some of the pros and cons to different systems. Four years of my life was totally worth saving upwards of $200,000. The cost of a small house.
I would recommend the job to a prospective applicant who was at least 90% sure they were not going to subspecialize. Caveat I did go back to fellowship after the NHSC this was not my original plan but realized that another field of medicine was more suited for my lifestyle, But that also worked well for me. When I review my life choice of the NHSC and fellowship afterwards it was a great match and I am glad I chose that route. I know for myself personally with my retrospective lens that the NHSC would have been a great choice even if I had known I would want to specialize.
Dr. Fraser Doh currently resides in Georgia with her husband and two children. After completing her residency training in pediatrics at Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital, she went on to fulfill her 4 year service commitment to the National Health Service Corps in Virginia. She then went on to complete subspecialty training in Pediatric Emergency Medicine and is currently a Pediatric Emergency Medicine physician in Atlanta, Georgia.