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Tackle Medical School Debt


 

Overwhelmed by medical school debt? You're not alone. A 2008 American Medical Association survey showed that the average 2007 medical school graduate was left with a $139,000 debt burden and a powerful incentive to avoid primary care.

But according to Renee Zerehi, the American College of Physicians' manager of health policy, increasing numbers of students choose HM because of flexible scheduling and opportunities to reduce their debt. Zerehi and Bijo Chacko, MD, FHM, a member of SHM's Young Physicians Committee and hospitalist program medical director for Preferred Health Partners in New York City, offer these strategies for debt reduction.

Understand your debt portfolio: Talk to a financial consultant to assess debt, your family situation, and lifestyle issues. "A strong, keen understanding of how debt impacts your budget is essential," Dr. Chacko says. Medical school loans often come with different interest rates and grace periods, so try to pay off the high-interest loans immediately, he explains.

Consolidate your debt: Loans from different lenders with different balances, interest rates, and due dates may best be handled by a federal consolidation loan. The AMA explains it all in

"The Ins and Outs of Student Loan Consolidation."

Student loan forgiveness: A number of hospitalist programs offer loan repayment programs. The National Health Service Corps, the Health Professions Scholarship Program, and state loan repayment programs offer loan forgiveness for physicians practicing in underserved areas. Visit the AAMC Web site for a comprehensive list.

NIH Faculty Loan Forgiveness: For academic hospitalists doing research, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) offers up to $35,000 a year for loan repayment and tax reimbursement for each year of service.

For more information, visit SHM's Young Physician microsite.

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