By Katie Marney, OMS-II, Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences College of Osteopathic Medicine
It’s no secret. Medical school is expensive. I knew this when I was dreaming of one day becoming a medical student just a few short years ago, and yet, when I was finally accepted and my dream became a reality, medical school seemed even more expensive than before. I began to ask myself, how am I going to pay for it? Is it worth it?
Of course, it is worth it! Let me tell you why. I firmly believe that being a physician is a calling. For most of us, there is no other vocation we can envision spending our lives doing. This is how it was for me. I knew I wanted to be a physician since I was young; however, my dream would take on a greater meaning following my years after college.
A little background: I grew up in urban Kansas without a want in the world. I was an avid volunteer and very active in my church community serving the less fortunate. I genuinely enjoyed my time serving others. I moved to Oklahoma for college, and after graduation, taught for a few years in inner city San Antonio, Texas with Teach for America. Despite knowing my end goal would be medical school, I knew there was more I wanted to experience prior to beginning my journey in medicine, and teaching was an opportunity to serve in a different capacity. During my time in San Antonio, my view of the world was challenged and saddened by my students’ and their families’ lack of access to proper health care. It affected how my students performed in school and how they developed and interacted with society.
I had found the greater meaning I referred to earlier. My goal of attending medical school and becoming a physician grew to becoming a physician who served the underserved. I always had a dream, now, I had a passion.
There are underserved populations in every community across the nation, in every state, county, city, or town. When researching where to begin my medical journey, Oklahoma stood out. It was close to home, and home to my brother with an extra bedroom. It is also particularly hard hit by our nation’s opioid epidemic and experiencing a significant physician shortage. For all of these reasons, Oklahoma is where I chose to begin my journey in medicine.
Now for the million dollar, or rather quarter million dollar, question: how would I pay for medical school? I made it too far to let money stand in the way. I completed the FAFSA® form and applied for Grad PLUS loans. Between both loan types, I was able to borrow the total cost of attendance for the Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences College of Osteopathic Medicine. My dream was now my reality.
If it were not for federal student loans, I would not be able to attend medical school. The options for private loans are slim, and federal loans provide greater allowance for borrowing, lower interest rates, and more flexible payback options.
Although experiences may differ, my story is not unique. There are thousands of individuals who want to become a physician who serves the underserved. In our nation, there is an increasing physician shortage, and the only way to close the gap is to produce more physicians. It seems simple, right? Hardly. It’s a complex, multifactorial issue. However, one simple solution is ensuring that aspiring physicians have access to federal loans to fund their education.
I attended an ED to MED town hall meeting in Washington, DC, less than a year ago. I left feeling concerned for the future of Grad PLUS loans yet charged with a mission to help promote this grassroots campaign. It is important that we continue to improve our nation’s access to quality physicians no matter what zip code a patient resides in.
I have benefited and will continue to benefit from receiving Grad PLUS loans. Pursuing my dream would not be possible without it. I hope you join me in advocating to #SaveGradPLUS by becoming an ED to MED advocate. I personally have visited my legislators in both the state capital and in Washington, DC. Our legislators are receptive of interests presented to them by their constituents. They want to hear from you. Join me, and together we can ensure that Grad PLUS loans continue helping individuals like myself fill the physician shortage.
The views and opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and do not imply endorsement by AACOM.