New Plans to Keep Medical Graduates in Iowa - News and Weather For The Quad Cities -

New Plans to Keep Medical Graduates in Iowa

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Iowa Governor Terry Branstad unveiled a new budget proposal Tuesday. Among plans to cut property taxes and reform education, were incentives to keep medical graduates in the state. He is proposing 2 million to support medical residency programs and 2 million to launch the "Rural Physician Loan Repayment Program."

That's where medical students at the University of Iowa College of Medicine and Des Moines University would be eligible for student loan repayments if they agree to practice in a rural area in the state for five years. Tuesday we spoke with doctors and graduates who tell us both proposals would be a big benefit to our community.

"I think that would be wonderful. There is just a huge amount of loan repayment we have to go through once you finish school," said Dr. Stacie Salowitz, M.D.

Salowitz is in the process of getting her residency at the Family Residency Program in Davenport. She says while she loves helping people, it comes at a price. An amount of $200,000 in student loans to be exact. It's something first year resident Jasmin Morrison also knows all about.

"It's huge. You go to residency and all of us kind of wonder exactly how we are going to pay it off and how long is it going to take to pay off ."

The expense is something health care professionals say is keeping some graduates from staying in Iowa and practicing in small towns.

 "Certainly rural areas have a difficult time attracting physicians. This proposal would help to alleviate that I hope," said Dr. Andrew Andresen, Program Director of the Genesis Family Medicine Residency Program.

 Dr. Andresen says the shortage of physicians has made health care for some Iowans much more difficult to come by. It's a trend Governor Branstad said Tuesday, he wants to reverse. "Patients don't want to drive two hours to see a physician," Dr. Andresen said.

He says giving residency programs like his more funding and offering students the loan help can only be positive.

"We just don't want to keep losing those doctors to other states, so if we could do something to help encourage people to stay here, get their training here and end of up staying in our state and working rural communities, that makes health care more accessible to the entire population of Iowa," he said.

In the past the state has cut a significant amount of funding to residency programs. Meanwhile, the "Rural Physician Loan Repayment Program" would include ob-gyn and emergency medicine doctors as well as primary care physicians. A total of 20 students could be eligible for up to $200,000 in loan repayments.

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