CLINTON, Ind. (WTHI) - For many who live in small towns and on farms, a doctor's appointment involves a long drive into a bigger city. Experts have warned that those drives can dissuade some of those patients from getting the attention they need in a timely manor.
In recent years, though, more doctors are moving into under-served communities as part of a program called the National Health Service Corps.
Through that program, medical students and those going into the medical field commit to work in one of those under-served communities. In exchange, a portion of the participant's student loan debt is forgiven: up to $60,000.
"In my life, it's been huge," said Dr. Julia Wernz, a participant who works as Director of Behavioral Health at Parke-Vermillion Community Health Center in Clinton, Ind. "When you start out after school, unfortunately, there's a lot of debt to pay back."
As important as the financial benefits of the program are, Wernz said she receives an even greater reward with the chance to work in a small town.
"I really feel like this is my calling," Wernz said. "I like the population that we serve. I can relate to them. I'm from a rural area myself, and I feel like it's my people that I'm serving."
Louisa Anderson, who works as an ambassador for the NHSC, said program participants are sometimes drawn to the areas in which they have committed to work and choose to stay there after their commitment ends.
"We do have people who decide that they … really like the ranch living or they really like living among the Indiana in the reservations, and they decide to stay there," Anderson said.
Among the fields of medical expertise sought through the program are general medicine, dentistry and behavioral healthcare.
If you'd like to learn more about the National Health Service Corps, click here .
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