State Offers $30M in loan repayment to Medical and other Healthcare Professionals seeking to work and stay in Hawaiʻi

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The State of Hawaiʻi and the Hawai‘i/Pacific Basin Area Health Education Center (AHEC) unveil an aggressive and far-reaching loan repayment program to address the growing shortages of physicians and other healthcare professionals.

Developed by JABSOM, the Healthcare Association of Hawai‘i, and the Department of Health and funded by the Hawaiʻi State Legislature, the Healthcare Education Loan Repayment Program (HELP) provides an unprecedented $30 million in educational loan debt repayment to health professionals licensed or otherwise certified to practice in and provide care to patients in Hawai‘i.

HELP builds off the decade-old Federally-funded Hawaiʻi State Loan Repayment Program by reaching a larger group of healthcare professionals. In exchange for two years of full-time or half-time service in Hawaiʻi, the following types of healthcare professionals will qualify for loan repayments starting at $12,500 and capped at $50,000. The eligible amount varies depending on their profession, location of their practice, and educational indebtedness. All must provide care to or work for organizations that provide care to at least 30% of patients who are publicly insured. 

  • Audiologist
  • Behavior analyst
  • Certified physician assistant
  • Certified substance abuse counselor
  • Chiropractor
  • Clinical laboratory director
  • Clinical laboratory specialist
  • Community service dental hygienist
  • Community service dentist
  • Cytotechnologist
  • Dental hygienist
  • Dentist
  • Emergency Medical Technician (EMT)
  • Industrial psychologist
  • Licensed bachelor social worker
  • Licensed clinical social worker
  • Licensed marriage and family therapist
  • Licensed practical nurse
  • Licensed social worker
  • Medical assistant
  • Medical laboratory technician
  • Medical technologist
  • Mental health counselor
  • Midwife
  • Naturopathic physician
  • Nurse aide
  • Nurse anesthetist
  • Nursing home administrator
  • Occupational therapist
  • Occupational therapy assistant
  • Optometrist
  • Osteopathic physician and surgeon
  • Paramedic
  • Pharmacist
  • Physical therapist
  • Physical therapist assistant
  • Physician
  • Physician assistant
  • Podiatrist
  • Psychologist
  • Radiology technician
  • Registered Dietician
  • Registered nurse
  • Respiratory therapist
  • Speech pathologist
  • Surgical assistant
  • Surgical technician
  • Surgical technologist

HELP prioritizes specialists in Primary Care and Behavioral Health along with those practicing in rural areas (defined by the state as all neighbor islands and Waimānalo, Waiʻanae, Wahiawā, Hauʻula, Lāʻie, Kahuku, Haleʻiwa, Waialua).

The State expects HELP to improve recruitment and retention of providers serving vulnerable populations, and those in medically underserved areas of Hawaiʻi, while lessening the burden of large educational debt.

“The current federally-funded and state-matched Hawaiʻi State Loan Repayment Program, has one of the highest retention rates in the country with 65% of loan repayers continuing to practice in their health professional shortage area and underserved community sites, and 80% of program completers still practicing in Hawai‘i” says Hawaiʻi-Pacific Basin AHEC Director, Dr. Kelley Withy. “Our program works and we are grateful to the 2023 legislature for continuing the matching funds for this Federal program that targets the highest shortage areas and specialties. However, we know there is a severe shortage of multiple physician specialties, worse on the neighbor islands and rural Oʻahu, as well as critical nursing, allied health and behavioral health shortages.”

“These shortages were most evident during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, but continue today”, says Interim Dean Dr. Lee Buenconsejo-Lum. “HELP expands loan repayment eligibility to so many working hard to keep the people of Hawaiʻi healthy. We hope that reducing their debt burden will help keep these professionals working here, and will also encourage our JABSOM graduates and others with Hawaiʻi ties to return home to practice.”

The historic announcement was made at AHEC’s annual Workforce Summit at the Hilton Hawaiian Village. Nearly 1,000 attended to brainstorm ideas to boost the number of physicians in Hawaiʻi, and many believe HELP will be the driving force in bringing medical professionals home.

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