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Coalition Urges Congress to Increase Funding for National Health Service Corps
Date:10/10/2007

RESTON, Va., Oct. 10 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The American Medical Student Association (AMSA), the nation's largest, independent medical student organization, today announced that a coalition representing the majority of the nation's physicians and physicians-in-training is urging Congress to pass the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) Scholarship and Loan Repayment Programs Reauthorization Act of 2007 (H.R. 2915).

The NHSC Scholarship and Loan Repayment Programs Reauthorization Act will double the funding for the NHSC, increasing the number of available positions. Currently, there are an estimated 10 applications for every open position.

The NHSC Scholarship and Loan Repayment Programs are central to effectively improving health care in underserved areas of the country. Over 50 million residents of the United States live in more than 3,000 federally designated health professional shortage areas. These communities lack access to essential primary health care and burdened by poor health outcomes. Over its 35-year history, the NHSC has provided crucial staff to local healthcare facilities, which serve to expand access and improve health outcomes. More than 27,000 primary care doctors, nurse practitioners, nurse midwives, physician assistants and dentists have participated in these programs since its inception.

"As the nation's future physicians, it is our responsibility to represent our patients' voices," says Michael Ehlert, M.D., national president of AMSA. "More than 35 years ago, AMSA was instrumental in the establishment of the NHSC and we continue to support the program that provides care to our nation's most vulnerable communities."

"I'm pleased that AMSA has endorsed my effort to renew and expand the National Health Service Corps program," said Rep. Bruce Braley (D-Iowa), author of the legislation. "Many areas of the country are experiencing shortages of qualified medical professionals. The NHSC program rewards doctors who perform a great public service by practicing in these underserved areas. By more than doubling the NHSC, this important legislation will provide more incentives than ever for doctors to practice medicine in critically underserved places and will improve many Americans' access to quality, affordable healthcare."

The NHSC Scholarship and Loan Repayment Programs also address the issue of physician maldistribution. Due to financial returns, underserved areas do not attract health professionals. According to the 2006 American Medical Group Association Physician Compensation Survey, physicians who specialize in family medicine earn on average $178,366 per year which ranks near the bottom on a list of salary earned per specialty, while such specialties as dermatology ($306,935 per year) and ophthalmology ($281,112 per year) rank near the top. This greatly effects the decisions of physicians who are graduating with an average debt of $130,000.

"The NHSC is a beacon of hope in what seems to be an increasingly dim picture for those who so desperately need primary and rural healthcare," says Jay Bhatt, M.P.H., fourth-year medical student at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine and a NHSC Scholar. "Reauthorizing and expanding the NHSC will allow the next generation of physicians to deliver quality care to the country's most vulnerable populations in difficult settings."

Joining with AMSA, the coalition consists of the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine, American College of Osteopathic Family Physicians, American Nursing Association, Association of Critical Care Nurses, Association of Deans and Directors for Primary Care, National Rural Health Association, the University of Connecticut School of Medicine and the University of Connecticut School of Dental Medicine.

About the American Medical Student Association

The American Medical Student Association (AMSA), with more than a half- century history of medical student activism, is the oldest and largest independent association of physicians-in-training in the United States. Founded in 1950, AMSA is a student-governed, non-profit organization committed to representing the concerns of physicians-in-training. With more than 68,000 members, including medical and premedical students, residents and practicing physicians, AMSA is committed to improving medical training as well as advancing the profession of medicine. To learn more about AMSA, please visit us online at http://www.amsa.org.


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SOURCE The American Medical Student Association
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