Medicine is one of the professions in this country that is seriously understaffed at all levels, and because of this, there are numerous medical school scholarships and other forms of funding to provide incentives for students to pursue a career in medicine. The thrust is toward those who will become practicing medical doctors, but some are geared toward research Ph.D. degrees. As the Baby Boomers age, there will be a corresponding increase in the need for medical professionals, especially doctors, and even more so, geriatric specialists. The approximate income expectations for doctors in America are about $190,000 per year for general practitioners and $325,000 for specialists, so it is a lucrative profession.

Part of medicine’s lack of appeal is perception. Many prospective medical students have been sacred away by what they commonly call the “gross-out factor”, but the fact is that once you have assisted in or performed, for example, an abdominal surgery, it becomes less “acute” in perception each time until it is routine. Most people don’t realize the diminishing impact of such activities. The other main issue is the combined number of years it takes to get an M.D. degree (8 is the normal number) and the high cost of education to become a doctor. At current tuition rates, the average total cost of the four years of medical school (after you have paid for four years of under-graduate studies) is $180,000.

Because of the high cost and long timeframe, scholarships for this pursuit far outweigh the option for student loans, but there is also, by the time you have completed an under-graduate degree and plan to go to medical school, a high standard for grades, skills, and leadership qualities in obtaining a medical school scholarship.

Before you reach the first year of medical school, you have three very broad options for funding your four years there:

1. Student loans. Some would argue that if the total cost for medical school equals roughly the same as the first full year of salary as a medical doctor, a loan should not be a burden. That is strictly individual choice.
2. Military-sponsored funding. Doctors are trained through the Health Professions School Program (HPSP) under the auspices of the United States military. If you opt for this plan, which covers all of your tuition, fees and supplies, plus provides a cost of living allowance, realize that this is integral to recruitment and you will be expected to “repay” the cost of your medical school by serving in the military for about 3 years.
3. Merit or needs-based scholarships. This is the best option for most people, but there are eligibility requirements and restrictions. Still, there are literally thousands of these available throughout the United States.

When you apply for a medical school scholarship, read the fine print to ensure that the “scholarship” is not in fact a student loan in disguise. If there is a document the likes of a promissory note, this is a loan or, like the military HPSP option, there are conditions attached.

There has been a recent groundswell of medical professionals who believe that medical school should be free to qualified candidates. Dr. Peter Bach of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and Dr. Robert Kocher of the Brookings Institution, have worked out a system of doing this so it has low impact on all financial elements of medical school. It makes a lot of sense, but has not taken off, as yet. Still, there is hope that this innovate solution to insufficient professional medical staff may be implemented in the future. For now, we’ll focus on the current scholarships for medical School.

Available Scholarships for Medical School

You may or may not have a department of medicine at the university where you obtained your under-graduate degree, or you may prefer to attend a different institution for the four years of medical study. Either way, your first approach should be directly to the medical school of your choice. Most have some form of medical school scholarships, and many of these are endowments from former graduates who went on to enjoy a lucrative career in the medical profession.

As you would with any type of grant or scholarship, study the available options, ensure you meet the eligibility requirements, and apply with a properly completed application package well in advance of the deadline for submissions. Here are a handful of the typical types of medical school scholarships available directly through the medical schools themselves:

• The University of Virginia School of Medicine. All medical school scholarships currently available at this institution are merit-based; some provide partial funding and others cover all tuition costs for the full four years.

• The School of Medicine at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. This medical school offers several merit-based, full-tuition-paid scholarships. It also has a special medical school scholarship for women.

• Vanderbilt University. Offering nine different scholarship programs, Vanderbilt University has a great reputation for turning out qualified doctors. The individual scholarships differ greatly, some being needs-based, some being merit-based, and others being a combination of both. They run the gamut from partial funding to complete tuition for four years, plus fees and a possible cost of living stipend. Each scholarship has several options and most are open to more than one applicant. To find out more about Vanderbilt University’s medical school scholarships, contact them and ask about the following programs: Cornelius Vanderbilt Scholarships; Elizabeth Craig Proctor Scholarship; Doris M. and Fred W. Love Scholarship; Thomas M. Blake Scholarship; Joe C. Davis Scholarship; Canby Robinson Scholarships (by all accounts, this is the most comprehensive of Vanderbilt University’s medical school scholarships); Barbara D, Murnan Scholarship; John E. Chapman, MD, Endowed Scholarship Fund; and Bess and Townsend McVeigh Scholarship.

The above-listed scholarships are just a sampling of what is available to you if you have either of the two primary qualifications: the drive, skills and ambition, but are from a proven low-income background, or that you show exceptional talent and skill in the area of your chosen profession. Again, check with your individual medical school(s) of choice to see what scholarships they offer. Try to find out before you apply for a scholarship what the outcome is if you either fail your courses or for personal reasons must extend your course of study by a year or longer. There is no point in obtaining a four-year full medical scholarship if for some reason you can’t complete in an extra year, if need be.

Other places to find out about medical school scholarships include teaching hospitals (usually part of a university medical school program) or private hospitals that are willing to fund medical school studies if you guarantee to work for them for a certain period of time after completing your professional medical training. If you’re adventurous, there may be certain off-shore opportunities, especially in locations where doctors are in very short supply and the political climate may be uneasy. Canadian universities are also offering scholarship equivalents and some Americans may qualify. Do your research!

Finally, here is a scholarship program that is not managed directly by the university medical schools, and offers perhaps a more wide range of options. The National Institute of Health offers a Medical Science Training Program (MSTP) for students in pursuit of an M.D. degree, or a Ph.D. with a plan to enter the area of research.

If during your under-graduate studies, you developed a growing interest in the medical field or if you knew from a young age that you wanted to be a doctor, there are almost limitless options for funding if you can show your mettle. There is a powerful need for medical doctors in America and around the world, and the aging population will only serve to create more positions over the next 20 to 30 years. The Baby Boomers are between 46 and 66 years old now. As they age and lose their good health, the medical profession will expand exponentially.

The field of medicine is demanding and is far from a 9:00 to 5:00 career, but you’ll earn an excellent living, have the ability to help people, and enjoy the camaraderie of others with similar goals and interests. Because of the mammoth need for qualified doctors, now is perhaps the best time ever to obtain medical school scholarships and get a leg up on your great future.

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