By Jesse McIlwaine, OMS-II, MSc, Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine – New York Middletown, NY
I am a native New Yorker and have remained within the state throughout my primary, secondary, undergraduate, and graduate schooling. I am fortunate to have many things people often take for granted. I am healthy and have family and friends that love me; I have a roof over my head, never go hungry or thirsty, and I can continue my education in osteopathic medicine. These are all blessings I’ve become increasingly aware of during my time volunteering in my underserved community of Middletown, NY.
The New York State (NYS) Department of Health’s 2017 Health Equity Report reveals that Middletown has a higher percentage of premature deaths (35.6%) than the NYS average (24.0%) and a higher preventable hospitalization rate (170.4 per 10,000) than the NYS average (135.7 per 10,000). These numbers would almost certainly benefit from an increase in practicing physicians within our community.
The hard reality of becoming a physician is that you are a medical student first. This may seem silly, but the future for prospective and current medical students may be in jeopardy if certain provisions of the PROSPER Act are signed into law. This act aims to reduce and replace the Graduate PLUS (Grad PLUS) Loan Program and eliminate for new borrowers the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program that I, along with countless other medical and graduate students, rely on.
$391,868. This is the estimated off-campus four-year cost of attendance for my education. I admit this number seems high, but I am able to afford it thanks to Grad PLUS loans. These uncapped loans allow students to request the necessary funds required to cover their entire cost of attendance, including tuition, room and board, and living expenses. If Grad PLUS loans are capped, we would be left with the undue burden of paying out of pocket for the cost of attendance, or finding private lenders who may not offer fixed interest rates and don’t offer loan forgiveness programs like PSLF.
I currently have no income and no time to devote to a job to finance my education. Medical school is challenging enough without having to worry whether my tuition and bills can be paid. I rely on Grad PLUS loans for my medical schooling so I can focus on becoming the best physician possible. I am urging Congress to #SaveGradPLUS for the sake of my education and the health of my future patients.