National Health Service/Armed Services Health

Does anyone have any first-hand knowledge or experience with either the National Health Service Corps Scholarship or the Armed Forces Health Professions Scholarship Program? Are these programs that we middle-age students should be considering (or even can be considering)?
Paying for medical school is such a pleasantly stressful thing to think about! Between my wife and me, we’ve got a considerable school debt load without the addition of medical school loans. I’ll be heading into my 40th birthday when I finish med school and I’m concerned with whether we’ll be able to pay off our school debt let alone having anything for retirement.
I’d appreciate any information or guidance anyone might be able to provide.

I am in my fourth year and have had and Air Force scholarship for all four years of school. Feel free to search some of my past posts for info about the scholarship. Also, please feel free to post any questions you have and I will do my best to answer them. Given the shortage of officers that has occured in the past few years, the age requirements have changed; unfortunately, I do not know what they are.

Larry, a colleague of mine who was a few years older than me - finishing med school in her mid-50s - had a NHSC scholarship. I found the “fine print” daunting when I looked into it - although I was pretty sure I wanted to do primary care, if I’d taken NHSC money and then gone into a subspecialty, I would’ve had to pay it back at a premium rate. I also understand that NHSC scholarships are actually really competitive to get.
However, I don’t want to discourage you at all. I was interested to find out that there is not only NHSC money available up front, as a scholarship for med school and a stipend to help you live while in med school, but there are also NHSC monies that you can apply for after residency, as loan repayment programs. Basically you need to try and get a job that’s listed with NHSC as qualifying for their loan repayment program and you will get $25K paid off for every year you work at that job, for up to four years. The jobs pay market rates supposedly. I haven’t looked into it yet for myself although it’s definitely on my radar for this time next year.
There are lots of other ways to get help with paying back loans, especially if you’re interested in rural medicine. There are communities who’ve lost their doctors – they put together very attractive packages to get a doctor to set up shop in their towns. There are state programs for loan repayment if you work in underserved communities.
Dunno about other specialties but you can read more about this here, at the American Academy of Family Practice website (click here and you’ll go to it).
Please don’t let money worries distract you from the big picture. I am really having fun as a family doctor and while I won’t get filthy rich doing it, I will certainly make more money than most folks and will have a LOT of job satisfaction.


I just got through the screening physical at the MEPS for the Army National Guard. I looked at the HPSP, but between the restrictions on residency and the geographic instability when you actually are posted, I decided the guard would be a better option.

The money isn’t as good - the pay off about 40%-60% of your med school debt retroactively as you complete your residency but the overall package was a better fit for me and my life. You get a smaller monthly stipend (guard drill pay) each month as well. Promotions work similarly and the time you are in med school + residency all count towards your retirement calculation.

Which service? That was easy. There is no Navy guard; At 36 the Air Force wouldn’t give me an age waiver (not for the guard or HPSP) and the Army was more than willing to work with me.

I’d really recommend calling your state national guard recruiter and looking into this program; it’s a great deal for medical students.

All of these are a great deal as long as you full understand and embrace the possibility of a LOT of deployments and going to combat zones albeit as a doc you will not participate in combat. The NG is at a high tempo right now and it does not look like it will slow down anytime soon. The regular armed forces are spread thin and now the reserves and guard are getting called up a lot. The military is great but do NOT go in just to be able to pay off loans or whatnot because risking your life and being away from family is NOT worth it. Go in because you want to serve and think you will enjoy the traveling. Again, this is not tryint to dissuade anyone but as a prior service woman and currently married to a service man I can vouch that the life is NOT pretty and we (service folks) hate it when folks join just to pay off loans or get college money and then they whine the whole time about deployments and God forbid going to combat! the military has one purpose and one purpose only (pretty much) and that is to train soliders/airmen/sailors/marines to go to combat and regardless of what you DO you can still get called up to asssist in this matter. Okay off soapbox now . Just do this with eyes WIDE OPEN.

Also, looking at job opportunities I see a TON of employers that will give bonuses AND do loan forgiveness…so again if you are willing to move you probably can get some great deal with someone for X years to practice there…much better than going to BFE and getting shot at

Many thanks for the thoughts and feedback!

As efex said, don’t overlook the possibility of deployment. A former high school classmate of mine who is the reserves (or national guard, not sure which) has just been called up to go to Iraq for the second time in just a few years. He is a family practice doc in a small, rural community. I also know of another family practice doc (in a similar area) who is currently serving his second tour of duty in Iraq. As both docs had small, one-doc practices, this has been a huge hardship not only for their families, but for their employees and communities.