Medical education is prohibitive, and costs are very high. More than 50%-70% of medical students in the U.S are already over-leveraged and in debt by the time they complete their medical education. Paying back medical loans is a painful process. A bulk of your salary as a resident goes towards paying back the cost of the loan and interest payments thereon.
So contemplating plunging into higher education, particularly a Masters’ degree is intimidating. You have to take on the onerous burden of education loans again. So if you want to pursue higher education, what are the alternatives available?
You might be contemplating doing an MBA or an MPH, additional education, or a certificate program. Explore the funding sources and scholarships available to you for education, even if you are a mid-career professional. Options available include Grants, Scholarships, and Funding in return for performance of certain services. Let us explore each of these options:-
1. Grant Funding
Grant funding is a fundamental component of pursuing a successful research career. Grant funding is a very competitive landscape, and achieving successful research support in this environment ensures the grant of a professorship. Achieving grant funding is important to gain momentum in one’s academic career.
The grant development team should consist of a principal investigator or a primary mentor who is from the same institute and a content writer who will write on the topic of interest. A sponsored project is externally funded where a formal written agreement, also known as a grant, contract, or cooperative agreement, is signed between the University and the sponsor. A sponsored project contains the specific statement of the work, the detailed budget, and sponsor terms and conditions that define requirements for financial accounting, technical and financial reporting, disposition of data rights, publications, and intellectual property.
Students who choose the rare specialties get awarded grant money in those areas. Grants for medical school students will be research grants, fellowships, and scholarships to fund their education. Female, minority students, and students from disadvantaged backgrounds have many grant program opportunities designed to increase their enrollment and provide funding.
Federal Medical Grants:
There are many federal agencies, each with its own priorities, approach, and goals. Understanding each agency’s mission is important as federal medical grant applications have to be made in accordance with that.
The National Institute of General Medical Sciences:
This offers medical students funding for up to 6 years. Such funding includes a stipend, tuition allowances, and funding for travel and supplies. There is no obligation to pay any of the funding back.
The American Medical Association
This offers grants, scholarships, and fellowships for students with different backgrounds. Their programs vary from student to student, but special programs for females and minorities provide special funding.
The Ford Foundation
This is a prestigious non-profit organization that provides funding for various causes. They also have a special program for fellowship students. That is available for fellowship students pursuing Ph.D. programs, including medical students pursuing medical research and teaching. Students typically receive $ 20,000 to $ 40,000 depending on the program. It is a very selective program, and to be eligible, students must send a transcript, MCAT or GRE scores, and recommendations. Applications can be downloaded from their website.
The Roothbert Fund Inc:
This small volunteer-based organization in New York provides grants and scholarships to all students irrespective of their gender, race, class, or major. Medical students should have a strong academic background with good grades, test scores, and recommendations. The Roothbert Fund provides only $ 2,000 to $ 3,000, and the funding is only supplemental in nature. You will have to submit transcripts, test scores, and recommendations.
The Leopold Schepp Foundation:
Medical students can receive up to $ 8,500 if they are enrolled in the medical program. You must be enrolled in an accredited U.S institution, have a G.P.A of 3.2, and have a strong academic background.
The New York Academy of Medicine:
This institution offers medical grants to medical students from New York City. The total grant amount is $ 4,000, including $ 3,500 as a stipend plus $ 500 to contribute to the research laboratory. Medical students must complete a research project and present their findings. Submitting excellent test scores and an excellent academic record is mandatory. Applications are available on their website.
The Radiological Society of North America:
This society offers a research medical student grant up to $ 3,000 to the student. The radiology department must provide another $ 3,000, which makes a total of $ 6,000 of scholarships for the student. The eligibility is that they should be students of an accredited American Medical school but must also pursue a research project relevant to radiology. They should also be members of the RSNA and pay their dues to society. Applications can be downloaded from their website.
American Medical Women’s Association:
This association offers medical grants to select female students. The grant of $ 250 is offered to 4 select female students per semester. The students applying for the grants should be students of the AMWA and should be paying their dues regularly. The application should be accompanied by a transcript and recommendations.
The Daughters of the American Revolution:
There are a number of grants and scholarships provided to female applicants. Alice. W. Rooke provides a scholarship ranging from $ 5,000 to $ 20,000. All applicants must be students of an accredited American medical school. All applicants must be members of the Dar organization and submit transcripts and recommendations.
There are also grants for students belonging to various minority communities.
The Latino Medical Students Association:
This association provides scholarships to students of Latino or Hispanic descent. The eligibility is that they should be of Hispanic or Latino descent, attending an accredited medical school, have financial needs, have an extensive community service record in the Latino community also with an excellent academic record.
The Howard Hughes Medical Institute Gilliam Fellowship for advanced study:
This scholarship enables students from disadvantaged backgrounds or underrepresented community groups to complete a Ph.D. program and funds their studies for five years. The applicant must be a student at an accredited financial institution, and the fellowship may cover costs up to $ 46,500.
Even students simultaneously working towards their MD and Ph.D. are also eligible to apply, but the grant covers the Ph.D. study only. The eligibility requirement is that the student must be a student of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Exceptional Research Opportunities Program.
A completed application form, transcripts, recommendations, and test scores (GRE and MCAT) are necessary. The application form can be downloaded from the website.
Similarly, different ethnic communities provide grants for scholarships for students belonging to that particular ethnic community.
National Institute of Health grants:
This is the largest public funder of biomedical research globally, investing more than $ 32 billion to enhance life and reduce disability and illness. The National Institute of Health is the largest federal funding agency dedicating millions of dollars to health research. NIH’s mission is to explore translational and exploratory research into medical, health, and other life sciences to find a cure, reduce disease threats, and lengthen life.
Its importance increases as it surpasses all other grant agencies, supports various kinds of experimental research, and provides the most professional portfolio to medical researchers. You have to understand the eligibility requirements, make sure your research is original, understand NIH’s internal procedures, and write a competitive application. There are various submission options, follow the provided instructions, prepare a detailed budget and format the various applications. Track your application and verify that it is the correct submission. The applications are submitted to a scientific review board to evaluate their technical or scientific merit.
There is a rigorous two-stage review:
1) Non-federal scientists review the first stage, and an advisory board or councils carry out the second stage. Applicants whose projects have scored well, submit just-in-time information. Final administrative reviews are conducted, and notice of award documents are sent to successful applicants. NIH’s award success rate is low. You have to ensure that the project and your application excel in all respects. There are 27 institutes and centers under NIH out of which 24 awards grants.
2) After NIH provides the grant, there is careful follow-up and review of the applicant’s project. This includes active monitoring of reports and correspondence from the grantee and audit reports and site visits. The details of the grant provisions are also provided on the NIH website, which you as a grantee must be aware of. Contract funding opportunities are also available at the NIH.
The Department of Defense:
The department of defense congressionally directed Medical Research Programs offers grants to prevent, control and cure disease. Medical grants are given for autism, epilepsy, lupus, melanoma, etc.
National Science Foundation:
This foundation awards $ 190 million to small businesses and startups. The grants support research and development across the fields of science and technology. A short 3-page pitch has to precede the entire proposal. You have to set up a legal US Corporation and submit a full proposal. Visit: https://seedfund.nsf.gov/ .
Food and Drugs Administration:
This agency works with US government partners to fund innovation and research in medicine. The FDA’s main role is to detect and respond to human health emergencies, address health emergencies, and manage drug shortages, infectious diseases, and food-borne illnesses. It also involves continuous surveillance of issues that cause human harm and threaten human health. The FDA granted six medical grants to fund clinical research into rare diseases under the Orphan Products Grant Program. Visit: http://www.grants.gov/.
Center for Disease Control and Prevention:
This agency provides funds for research and non-research public health programs. The eligibility criteria is detailed in the Notice of Funding Opportunity. Visit: https://www.cdc.gov/grants/applying/tips.html
US Agency for International development:
This is a federal grant program to assist humanitarian and economic development. US-based non-profit agencies, local, state, or regional governments, private voluntary agencies, and foreign-based nonprofit entities can apply for USAID grants. Visit: https://www.usaid.gov/work-usaid/find-a-funding-opportunity
2. Scholarship Funding
There are various categories of scholarships available for different categories of medical students. Some are reimbursement of medical tuition expenses, some for financial assistance for underprivileged students, and some scholarships instituted in memoriam of a family member or an offspring who has passed away. Most scholarships provide assistance that is meant to be supplemental in nature. Some of the scholarships available for students who are pursuing higher education are as follows:-
- Physicians of Tomorrow awards:
This is one of the more substantial scholarships that medical students can earn to help fund their education. Certain commonalities that govern the awards include the following:-
- The student must be a third-year medical student.
- You have to be nominated by the school dean.
- Your application should include letters of recommendation, a personal statement, school transcripts, and proof of your financial status.
- Herbert W.Nickens Medical student scholarship:
Five students are offered $ 5,000 scholarships to students entering their third year of medicine. To avail of this scholarship, applicants must submit a nomination letter from their school’s medical dean, which vouches that the student has maintained good medical standing during the first two years of medical school. A letter of recommendation should also be submitted by the medical school’s institutional diversity affairs officer. If no such officer is present, an additional recommendation must be submitted by a faculty member of the school and a personal statement that details the applicant’s experience in leading efforts to reduce inequities in medical education and healthcare for minorities.
- National Health Service Corps Scholarship Program:
This program pays up to four full years of medical school tuition and fees, offering a living stipend in exchange for living in communities in rural, tribal as well as urban communities with limited access to medical care upon graduation and licensure. You must also practice in an NHSC-approved site which includes federally qualified Health centers and rural health clinics. The amount of financial aid will determine the years of your service. Please check: https://www.usamedicalsurgical.com/scholarship-program/ for further details.
- National Medical fellowship Scholarships:
These medical scholarships support the underrepresented minority community medical students, including African Americans, Hispanics/Latinos, Native Americans, Asian-Americans (Vietnamese and Cambodian), and Pacific Islanders. Scholarship amounts range from $ 5,000 to $ 7,000. The student should have proven academic merit, demonstrated leadership ability, and a commitment to serving medically underserved communities.
- Research America Scholarship
Many medical universities also provide merit scholarships based on financial needs and the good academic ability of the student. This enables students to defray a part of the expenses of the school.
Visit the website: https://www.researchamerica.org/advocacy-action/research/research-funding-and-economic-impact-of-funding-by-state . This provides funding details by state, source of funds, and medical areas where the funding is distributed.
- Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality:
This agency provides funding for an array of intramural and extramural predoctoral and postdoctoral educational and career development grants and opportunities in health services research.
3. Funding In Return For Services Rendered
Medicaid, Medicare, and taxpayer dollars help fund several programs for uninsured, low-income, and vulnerable patients. Under the Affordable Care Act, there is increased federal funding to federally qualified healthcare centers. These provide care to millions of underserved patients regardless of the ability to pay. These centers charge fees based on the patient’s income, and free vaccines are provided to underinsured and uninsured children. Uninsured patients have access to acute care through federal law, such as treating women in labor regardless of insurance, ability to pay, national origin, and race.
Most medical students graduate with debt of more than US$ 200,000, an amount that also covers pre-medical education. Several federal debt reduction programs, loan forgiveness programs, and scholarship programs are offered to medical students who work in Health Professional Shortage Areas.
Such medical services entitle the physicians to a Medicare Physician Bonus payment. Sometimes this kind of care requires after-hours arrangements like providing care in the evenings or on weekends. After-hours care is primarily provided through walk-in appointments in private urgent care clinics and retail centers that typically serve younger, healthier individuals who require episodic care and may not have a primary care provider.
Whatever the form of funding, whether through grants, scholarships, or funding in return for services rendered, please pay attention to the following facts:
- Search for organizations that cater to post-graduate students in the medical profession.
- Pay attention to your writing skills, grammar, and clean layout while presenting your case.
- Try to maintain a high-grade point average or have a consistent and clear explanation for a low-Grade point average.
- Tailor all your responses in your application to each specific organization and its goals.
- Incorporate enough background history, keep your application real without any exaggerations
- Maintain a relationship with the faculty members and the Dean etc., as they have to endorse your application and provide proper references.
- Search websites in search of new funding opportunities. There can never be such a thing as too many funding opportunities. Your extra efforts can go a long way towards defraying the costs of your post-graduate education, especially after the high costs of your graduate education.