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NIH Loan Repayment Programs relieve researchers' educational debt

Programs allow participants to focus on research careers As the costs of medical education continue to rise, the National Institutes of Health Loan Repayment Programs (LRPs) serve as a lifeline for physician scientists who have high educational debt.

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the average debt for graduates in the class of 2009 was $156,456, and 79 percent of all medical school graduates owed $100,000 or more. For nearly 10 years, the LRPs have supported early stage investigators by repaying up to $35,000 of educational debt annually for investigators who commit to at least two years of research funded by a domestic nonprofit, university or government entity. For the 2010 application cycle, more than 3,200 applications were received, and nearly 1,600 scientists received loan repayment contracts.

The next application cycle will open on Sept. 1 and conclude on Nov. 15 at 8 p.m. EST. The five extramural LRPs are clinical research, pediatric research, health disparities research, contraception and infertility research, and clinical research for individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds.

"Each year, the NIH LRPs invest more than $70 million in researchers who work across a broad, diverse field, and the LRPs have become a career pipeline for our future scientific leaders," said Milton Hernandez, Ph.D., director of the Division of Loan Repayment. "Our alumni have been successful in securing additional grants and funding from NIH, and many have said that remaining in research careers would not be possible without assistance from the LRPs. Over the last year, we have developed exciting new programs that will help foster their careers and link them to the NIH as well as each other."

The newly launched LRP Ambassador Network serves as a bridge between alumni and future participants, and offers opportunities for professional development. Ambassadors are encouraged to share their experiences with potential participants. This fall, potential applicants will be invited to participate in LRP's first webinar, which will help young professionals map out their scientific careers.

For more information on the loan repayment programs, including applications, eligibility information, application tips, success stories, a payment estimator, and contact information for NIH institute and center liaisons who can discuss research priorities, visit www.lrp.nih.gov . In addition, LRP is on Twitter and will tweet application cycle updates from @NIH_LRP. These updates can also be followed at www.twitter.com/NIH_LRP. The LRPs are administered by the NIH Office of Extramural Research.

The Office of the Director, NIH, provides leadership, oversight, and coordination for the entire NIH research enterprise. Also within the Office of the Director, many offices develop NIH policy and provide essential NIH-wide oversight and coordination. For more information, please visit http://www.nih.gov/icd/od/index.htm.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) - The Nation's Medical Research Agency - includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is the primary federal agency for conducting and supporting basic, clinical and translational medical research, and it investigates the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.

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