Education is the foundation of our nation’s biomedical research enterprise. Despite its immeasurable benefits, it can also place a heavy financial burden on recent graduates as they embark on their careers. Since 1988, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has repaid more than $500 million of student loan debt to reduce the financial obstacles that can prevent people from pursuing research careers.1
As part of our commitment to ensuring that a diverse and highly trained workforce will sustain the momentum of past generations, this month’s letter features the NIH Loan Repayment Programs. Two opportunities that are most likely to be of interest to the NIAMS community are the Extramural Loan Repayment Program for Clinical Researchers and the Extramural Loan Repayment Program for Pediatric Research. While the specific criteria and application processes are outlined at https://www.lrp.nih.gov/, you may be eligible for one of these awards if you are a health care professional who has
- a strong commitment to clinical or pediatric research,
- a student loan debt that equals at least 20 percent of your salary, and
- research support from a federal agency, state or local government, or nonprofit organization.
After your application is reviewed by an outside panel of investigators, NIH may repay up to $35,000 of your undergraduate, graduate, and medical school loans per year for up to four years. Loan repayment benefits under these awards are in addition to the institutional salary you receive for your research.
While many NIH Institutes and Centers participating in the NIH Loan Repayment Programs—including NIAMS—give priority to physicians and others who have professional doctoral degrees (e.g., M.D., D.O., D.V.M., D.D.S.), people who have academic doctorates (e.g., Ph.D., Ed.D., Dr.P.H.) also are eligible. Other Ph.D.-level researchers have received support through the Extramural Loan Repayment Programs for Clinical Researchers from Disadvantaged Backgrounds and for Health Disparities Research, which are administered by the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD). For example, if you are studying one of the diseases within the NIAMS mission that disproportionately affects members of minority populations, you may be eligible for loan repayment under the health disparities research program, even if you do not fit the NIAMS criteria of being a physician-scientist.
Please note that people who have funding from sources other than NIH are eligible to apply for the Loan Repayment Programs. If you are a member of a professional society or other nonprofit organization that supports research, your grantees may be interested in and eligible for these opportunities. Please share this message with your members, especially if they are conducting clinical research in NIAMS mission areas or are studying arthritis or musculoskeletal or skin conditions that are commonly seen in children or in ethnic or racial minorities.
NIH will begin accepting applications for the 2015 Extramural Loan Repayment Programs on September 1, 2014. We are making you aware of these opportunities now to give candidates ample time to prepare their research plans and other materials.