Elizabeth Wiley, MD, JD, MPH
National President, American Medical Student Association
More than 86 percent of physicians-in-training rely on student loans to pay for medical school. If Congress does not take action by July 1, subsidized Stafford loans for graduate and professional students will be discontinued and undergraduate subsidized Stafford loan interest rates will double, increasing from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent. This limits education and career choices for physicians-in-training, who already have an average debt of more than $160,000 at graduation. Beyond the pocketbook, critical issues in American health care such as access to care, diversity and cultural competency in the workforce, and health disparities are all affected by the debt burden carried by today's physicians-in-training. AMSA believes that the debt burden may contribute to the measurable decline in students entering primary care fields in favor of more lucrative specialties.
Some members of Congress have introduced legislation to cut the Prevention and Public Health Fund rather than close corporate loopholes in order to prevent an increase in undergraduate Stafford loan interest rates. Investments in prevention and public health not only improve the lives of our citizens but are also cost-effective. This funding for cancer screening, immunizations and health education is essential for a healthy nation and a health care system that prevents illness rather than solely treats disease. The American Medical Student Association calls on Congress to take action to protect Stafford loans and the Prevention & Public Health Fund. Protecting corporations at the expense of students or prevention is unacceptable.
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