Sebelius in L.A. to announce $9.1 million in aid to med students
U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius visited a health clinic in downtown Los Angeles on Monday and announced more than $9 million in funding to help medical students repay school loans if they agree to work in underserved areas.
Sebelius said the program would encourage more students to pursue careers in family medicine and help relieve a shortage of primary care doctors.
“Most Americans who live in underserved areas don’t have access to basic care,” she said during the visit to Eisner Pediatric and Family Medical Center. “It is not just a problem in some rural, isolated communities. It’s a big problem in cities, like here in L.A.”
Sebelius toured the Eisner clinic, which serves more than 26,000 patients each year, and took part in a panel discussion about community health clinics. Clinics nationwide received an influx of financial support from the federal health reform law, designed to improve quality of care and reduce costs.
In the past, Sebelius has said that not enough attention was paid to workforce issues. But that has changed, and now there is more effort to expand that workforce, including training primary care doctors, nurse practitioners and physician assistants.
The loan repayment program, also funded by the federal law, is part of the National Health Service Corps and provides up to $120,000 to students who commit to spending three years as primary care doctors in areas where there are shortages.
The corps was created in 1972 and has tripled in size over the last three years. The program already provided loan repayment for medical residents, while the new effort reaches students while they are still in medical school.
-- Anna Gorman
Photo: Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, fields questions at a panel discussion at the Eisner Pediatric and Family Medical Center in downtown Los Angeles. Credit: Arkasha Stevenson / Los Angeles Times