For the first DMU physician assistant alumni selected for Iowa’s state-supported loan repayment program, being able to shed their debt is “the cherry on top” of working in rural Iowa.
That’s the view of repayment recipient Russell Dixon, PA-C’11, who practices in the Ottumwa, IA, Regional Health Center emergency department. “I absolutely love working there. We have a really great staff dedicated to providing care to rural Iowans,” he says. “The patients that we see ‘get it.’ They are hardworking, salt-of-the-earth kind of people who appreciate what we do.”
The Rural Iowa Advanced Physician Assistant Loan Repayment Program, administered by the Iowa College Student Aid Commission, provides loan repayment incentives for students who agree to practice in designated rural service commitment areas for five years. Similar programs are available to D.O. and M.D. students and registered nurse practitioners.
Recipients, who must graduate from eligible Iowa colleges or universities, may receive up to $4,000 annually for up to five years to pay down student loan balances. That can “recognize providers for their commitment to small-town Iowa,” says recipient Erin Ott Sinram, PA-C’11, who works in family practice at Covenant Clinic in Fairbank, IA.
“I appreciate caring for entire families, often three generations. Working in a small, rural clinic has enabled me to build strong relationships with my patients,” she says. “This sense of trust facilitates complete health care as well as promotes better patient compliance.”
Given the shortage of health care providers in rural areas, practicing there entails a wide variety in clinical cases, says loan repayment recipient Lindsay Weber, PA-C’13. “I enjoy my work because I am always challenged,” she says about her role at the Mercy Family Care Clinic in Perry, IA. “Every day holds something different.”
The very nature of small-town life is a bonus, says loan repayment recipient Brittany Jones, PA-C’14, who practices with Central Iowa Health Care based in Marshalltown.
“I am loving the opportunity to become part of the smaller communities that I am working in and getting to know the patients I am serving,” she says. “Receiving this loan repayment means I am able to work in a community where I feel most comfortable, and I am very grateful for the opportunity.”