National Health Service Corps Tops 10,000

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said more than 10,000 clinicians are now providing primary care through this program, the largest number in its history.

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said more than 10,000 people are now participating in the National Health Service Corps, a record number and nearly three times more than in 2008. These are doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals providing care for Americans in communities nationwide.

The surge is an economic barometer of its own: The Affordable Care Act, federal stimulus funds, and annual appropriations allowed the National Health Service Corps to award nearly $900 million in scholarships and loan repayment to health care professionals. "Thanks to the these critical investments in our nation’s health care workforce, there are nearly three times the number of NHSC clinicians working in communities across America than there were three years ago -- increasing access to health care and supporting local jobs," HHS said in a news release. "In 2008, approximately 3.7 million patients were provided service by 3,600 National Health Service Corps providers. Now in 2011, with field strength of more than 10,000 clinicians, the National Health Service Corps provides health care services to about 10.5 million patients."

"Thanks to the National Health Service Corps, more Americans can see a doctor and get the health care they need," Sebelius said. "The investments we made are improving health and creating access to care, fueling economic activity nationwide."

The program began in 1972. "Eighty-two percent of NHSC clinicians continue to serve in high-need areas after they fulfill their service commitment," said Mary Wakefield, Ph.D., R.N., administrator of the HHS agency that administers NHSC. "These awards help ensure that underserved communities across the country have access to quality health care both today and in the future."

The awards to participants were made through these programs:

  • The NHSC Loan Repayment Program: 5,418 awards (4,127 new and 1,291 continuations). The loan repayment program provides an initial, tax-free award of up to $60‚000 for two years of service in an underserved community and the opportunity to pay off all health professional student loans with continued service.
  • The NHSC Scholarship Program: 247 awards totaling $46 million. The scholarship program pays tuition, required fees, and other education costs for as many as four years. Upon graduation, recipients serve as primary care providers between two and four years at an NHSC-approved site in a high-need Health Professional Shortage Area.

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