Study: Loan repayment programs motivate in-debt osteopathic physicians to work in underserved areas

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Osteopathic physicians with high debt are more likely to work in underserved areas due to the availability of loan repayment programs intended to address physician shortages, according to a study in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association.

For the study, researchers examined data from the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine's annual survey given to graduates of colleges of osteopathic medicine. Researchers analyzed survey results from 2007, 2010, 2013 and 2016, assessing graduates' intention to practice in an underserved area, their debt level and plans to participate in a loan repayment program.

The amount of graduates with intentions to practice in underserved areas increased from 27.5 percent in 2007 to 35.3 percent in 2016. Physicians with the most debt were more likely to practice in underserved areas than those with the least debt. These graduates were also more likely to report plans to use loan repayment programs.

"[T]he osteopathic medical profession must continue to be aware of and involved in addressing the economic and social pressures on its new graduates to continue to fulfill its public health missions," the researchers concluded. "Understanding how to provide quality healthcare in areas with critical needs provides an opportunity to attract strong public health-minded applicants to the osteopathic medical profession."

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