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How does the program work if an individual has loans from multiple sources? 

NIH prioritizes which lenders are repaid first when participants have outstanding loans from multiple sources. Regardless of the balance or interest rate, NIH gives first priority to loans guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HEAL, Health Professions Student Loan, Loans for Disadvantaged Students and Nursing Student Loan Program). Next priority goes to loans guaranteed by the Department of Education (Stafford, Perkins, Consolidation, etc.). Other loans are prioritized in this order: state, academic entities and private lenders. NIH issues payments directly to lenders on a quarterly basis.

Regarding the issue of loan consolidation, it is acceptable to refinance student loans to streamline payments and secure lower interest rates. However, it is important to keep student loans segregated from all non-educational loans to remain eligible for NIH loan repayment programs. In addition, it is important to avoid consolidating loans with loans held by another person, such as a spouse or a child. Individuals should obtain a disclosure statement on the consolidated loans from his/her lender. PLUS Loans, delinquent and/or past due loans and penalties are not eligible for NIH repayment.

How many people have been accepted into the program?

Nearly 500 individuals applied to the program in 2002 and nearly 1,200 in 2003. The number of awards in 2003 increased to over 730. In 2002, two-thirds of awards went to applicants with MD or MD/PhD degrees. Also, a majority of awardees (slightly over 50 percent) were research trainees. In 2003, the applications of 20 gastroenterologists were accepted for funding.

How are recipients chosen?

The program is operated from the newly formed Office of Loan Repayment and Scholarship under the jurisdiction of the NIH director. Staff in the NIH Loan Repayment Program screen the applications for completeness and eligibility. After screening they forward them to the NIH Center for Scientific Review to determine which NIH Institute or Center application will be assigned for review. Review of applications for scientific merit was instituted when the eligibility criteria were expanded beyond NIH-only grant recipients.

In reviewing the application, peer review groups comprised of non-NIH scientists are asked to consider the following criteria:

  • Appropriateness of the applicant's previous training and experience as preparation for a career in clinical research;
  • Suitability of the applicant's proposed clinical research activities in the two-year period to foster a career in clinical research;
  • Assessment of the applicant's commitment to a research career as reflected by the personal statement of long-term career goals and the plan outlined to achieve those goals;
  • Strength of recommendations attesting to the applicant's potential for a clinical research career;
  • Availability of appropriate scientific colleagues to achieve and/or enhance the applicant's research independence; and
  • Quality and appropriateness of institutional resources and facilities.

What's the application process?

Most of the application can be completed online at www.lrp.nih.gov. NIH requires the following:

  1. Personal information such as educational background, funding sources, a personal statement on career goals, certifications and verification of citizenship;
  2. Research information including recommendations, supervisor contact information and institutional contact information; and
  3. Loan information.
The extramural application cycle opens yearly on Sept. 1.

For more information

If you need help with your application, visit the LRP Web site or call the LRP Help Desk at (866) 849-4047, Monday Friday, 9a.m. 5p.m. ET.

Good luck!

Prepared in 2004 by AGA staff based on information provided by NIH.

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