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apply for grant and promise 5yrs in primary care VS take out a whole lot in loans??

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Hello! I would love some advice from practicing PAs on how to handle this situation:


I was just accepted into my first-choice school (Methodist University in Fayetteville, NC near Ft. Bragg) and will start next Fall. In case it matters: I'm a 31-year-old female.


I already owe about $26K for courses I took to complete prereqs. The PA program tuition + fees, supplies, etc. will run about $70K. By the time 6.8% interest kicks in, I figure I'll owe about $110K once school is over. My husband and I are both incredibly frugal, and even if I have to pay for school 100% using loans, we have a plan in which the loans would be paid off in 6 years. BUT.....


There is a grant program that was awarded to Methodist in which they select 6 students to receive $44K ($22k for 2 years). The caveat is that each recipient must promise to work 5 years in primary care (family med, peds, or IM). My father-in-law is a primary care physician in Illinois and is a huge inspiration to me. I think I would enjoy primary care. BUT...I am also hugely interested in cardiology, and the ER seems appealing as well. And who knows? Once clinicals start, I may change my mind again.


What I'd like to know is if it's worth it to commit myself to primary care before school even starts to get such generous financial assistance. I'm looking at the difference in owing $35K (if I'm one of the lucky 6 to receive the grant) vs. $110K (without the grant). I may be putting the cart before the horse a little bit here, because I don't even know that I would be one of the 6 to get the grant funds. I thought it would be good, though, to hear what people have to say before I submit an application when the time comes.


I've done research on this forum about salaries in different specialties and different regions within the U.S., but there are so many variables here (picking a specialty before school starts, committing to said specialty for 5 yrs, salaries, loan payments, etc.). I decided I should just post something and hope for responses. I keep going back and forth on what to do. I am crossing my fingers that your experiences will highlight some factors I haven't considered that will help me make up my mind whether I should apply for the grant.


Thank you very much for your time!

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Hi! I am a current student at Methodist and received the grant you are talking about. I just wanted to let you know that if you get the grant you are not required to actually work 5 years in primary care, but they would like you to. It benefits recertification of the grant if the recipients work in primary care for 5 years upon graduation, but you will not have to pay back the grant if you decide to work in another area. You may also want to look into the NHSC scholarship. It is for people who want to work in primary care and will pay for ALL of your expenses.

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Thank you very much for that information. I "think" primary care is the route I want to go but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't open to other paths; I don't want to be close-minded and miss out on the area of medicine that is my true calling. I was so worried about even applying for it without being 100% sure it's what I want to do. What you said makes me feel better about applying for the grant with my mind not being completely made about where I'll end up.


As for NHSC, I have been looking at that, too. However, I am completely set on staying in the Fayetteville area (parents are here -- very close to them) and a little concerned whether there will be an approved site within a reasonable commute distance from home.


Thank you again so much for your response. I hope school is going well for you, and I am thrilled to get to be a part of the program next year! The proof: I've already been thinking about what to name our cadaver!! :-)

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  • 2 weeks later...

Primadonna -- I am almost completely committed to going the primary care route after having talked with several others. Not to diss specialties, but I really identify with what you (and many others) have said about a strong foundation being formed in primary care. I feel like it will provide the greatest exposure to the widest variety of patients and illnesses so that I'll have a good knowledge base. I want to be the best practitioner I can be, and from what I gather those first few years out of school are going to be key. I was just really worried about applying for something and then having a priceless opportunity come up that I'd have to turn down. Even if I've got my mind made up to do primary care, there's something nice about being able to make the decision yourself, as opposed to having it made for you, you know? Thank you for your feedback....

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Anytime. I'm struggling with specialty choice myself as I will be applying next October for the 2014 ACGME match... At this time I'm pretty sure I will try for Med- Peds with FM as backup--but it is hard to commit to one specialty for the rest of my life...as a PA I never had to make that choice :)


That has got to be nerve-wracking. I don't know that I'd be okay with not having other options (one big "plus" for me as to why I went the PA route!); I like having an out if I get buyer's remorse :-) When the Match rolls around, I hope you get your top pick and love it!! And kudos to you for all your hard work...my hat's off to you for sure.

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