But she stresses that the seven- or eight-year program isn't really a free M.D., and students who treat it that way might be getting free classes but, for the doctoral half of the program, are "essentially losing four years of doctor's salary."
Myles Akabas, who directs the MSTP at Yeshiva University's Albert Einstein College of Medicine, says Einstein's admissions committee is "very concerned" about students—generally those from lower income backgrounds who can't imagine receiving a $250,000 loan—mistaking the program for a free M.D. Einstein spends "a lot of time" trying to identify their applications and direct them elsewhere, says Akabas, who was involved in a 2010 study of 24 M.D.-Ph.D. programs nationwide.
Like MSTP in general, Case Western Reserve University's College of Medicine offers full scholarships that cover tuition and fees for "physician investigators," in response to the fact that "less than two percent of active physicians [are] pursuing careers involving research."
Aspiring M.D.'s who don't want doctorates might consider loan repayment plans such as the National Health Service Corps, which repays up to $60,000 in loans for awardees who commit to working in "Health Professional Shortage Areas" for two years. Another option is the military-sponsored Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP).
[Read about 10 medical schools that lead to the most debt.]
According to Christopher Dillon, a physician recruiting liaison for the Army Medical Command's Medical Recruiting Brigade, the Army represents the largest portion of HPSP: more than 1,100 students at more than 150 medical schools. HPSP pays full tuition, supplies, and fees for any accredited U.S. or Puerto Rican medical school, as well as a monthly stipend of $2,088 for 10 and a half months and a second lieutenant's salary—roughly double the stipend—for the other six weeks.
"If the school requires it to attend, then the scholarship will pay for it," says Dillon, an HPSP recipient in 1985.
Eric Ness, whose studies at UVA are funded by the Air Force, says it's "a very generous deal," though HPSP comes with strings attached. He needs to apply for an Air Force residency after medical school, and he owes the Air Force three years of service to repay the three years of his scholarship.
Dillon, who never expected he'd practice medicine in the Army two decades ago, says the commitment is a good trade. The Army is "very family friendly," and all service members get 30 days of paid vacation per year, he says. "It provides the balance that many young professionals desire in their lives."
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