In response to the projected shortage of doctors in the coming decades, and the prohibitive costs of medical education, Rep. Michael McMahon (D-NY) has introduced a bill to make medical school affordable for former civilian service corps participants.
The Future Physicians Serving America Act of 2009, co-sponsored by Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) and Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD), would grant tuition assistance for Returned Peace Corps Volunteers and former AmeriCorps members studying medicine.
According to the proposed legislation, for each year of service, former service participants would earn two years’ worth of tuition assistance. The assistance would amount to between 50 and 100 percent tuition costs. For former AmeriCorps members, the amount of the med school assistance would replace the amount of the regular Education Award. Also, according to the text of the bill — introduced May 7th — even part-time AmeriCorps members would be eligible for some amount of assistance, though less than full-time corps members.
Siting a projected shortfall of 124,000 physicians by 2025, and the staggering median debt of med school — $155,000 — the proposed law aims to:
- provide people with low incomes (RPCVs and former AmeriCorps members) with the opportunity to attend medical school more affordably
- decrease the cost and debt associated with a medical education
- strengthen the diversity of med schools and the physician workforce
- increase the number of physicians with a demonstrated interest in rural and inner city populations.
The bill proposes assistance to cover undergraduate study “at any accredited public or nonprofit private hospital, school of medicine or osteopathic medicine within the United States.” This provision puzzled me, at least on the Peace Corps side, since 94 percent of Peace Corps Volunteers enter the corps with a college degree. Apparently (see comments) it refers to medical school.
Currently Peace Corps and AmeriCorps both offer many health-related assignments. In Peace Corps, people interested in health and medical careers are need in Health Extension, Public Health, Water and Sanitation, and HIV/AIDS issues. Health-related AmeriCorps and VISTA positions vary widely, and include administering volunteer programs for health clinics, and public health education. The Serve America Act also establishes a new health-related corps called Healthy Futures Corps.
The bill, H.R. 2332, is now in the House Education and Labor Committee as well as in the House Foreign Affairs Committee.