Dental Student Loan Relief Program Opens in August



Many dental students who are now entering their final year of school are wondering how they’re going to pay off their debt, which is averaging $255,567 these days. Fortunately, they can find significant relief while giving back to the community, with enrollment opening August 17.

The National Health Service Corps (NHSC) Students to Service Loan Repayment Program (S2S LRP) provides up to $120,000 to DDS and DMD students in their final year of school in return for a commitment to provide primary healthcare full time for at least 3 years at an approved NHSC site in a health professional shortage area of greatest need.

Dr. Courtney Levine, for example, practiced at the Kenosha Community Health Center in Kenosha, Wis, where she served a significantly low-income, underinsured and uninsured population. She was part of a team of 12 dentists and 12 hygienists at a new and expanded dental clinic with 43 operatories, greatly increasing access to oral care.

“There is a lot of diversity in the community health setting—some patients having received great dental care all their lives, and others have received very little care,” Levine said during her tenure there. “So I’m able to practice all scopes of dentistry from routine procedures to things that are usually seen only in textbooks.”

“We are a federally qualified healthcare center, which means we see people regardless of their ability to pay,” said Dr. Sean Boynes, NHSC member and director of dental medicine at CareSouth South Carolina, which has multiple locations across the state.

“If it wasn’t for us being there, they would have nowhere to go, and I mean that literally. Nowhere to go,” said Boynes. “The NHSC is actually just one of the ways we incentivize to put good providers in places of need.”

Interested students can begin with the 2016 S2S LRP Application and Program Guidance document. It details the program eligibility requirements and selection criteria, as well as the rights and responsibilities of those selected for the program.

Next, potential applicants can view the S2S LRP Application and Program Guidance Recorded Webinar, which reviews the application process, eligibility requirements, and service commitment. They also should create a Federal Student Aid ID before beginning the application process so federal loan information can be electronically imported.

Students then should gather the relevant documentation, including loan information verification, school transcripts, verification of good standing, proof of passing Step/Level 1 of their board exams, letters of recommendation, and a curriculum vitae or resume.

The NHSC Jobs Center provides information about the kinds of sites where S2S LRP participants serve after completing their residencies. Once applicants review the opportunities listed there, they should continue to the application.

“This is a tough job, and what we do here is different. We’re trying to change the complexion of the way care is delivered,” said Boynes. “The environment created by the NHSC allows a provider to enact the most amount of change.”

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