Membership & Fellowship: 4 More Doctors Share How They're Tackling Medical School Debt

Article reprinted courtesy of SoFi, ACOG’s partner in refinancing members’ student debt. Research your student debt refinancing options at

Originally posted  July 11, 2017 on SoFi’s online blog.

Before you read on—don't miss the October issue of ACOG Rounds to see how the first four doctors are tackling their medical school debt.

Working in A Loan Repayment Program

“When you’re looking at six figures of debt, you want to put a dent in that debt as soon as possible. If you [get a job at] a loan repayment site working for the government, you can receive help paying off your loans, all while practicing medicine with challenging patients. I think [a loan repayment site] can be a good place for a new doctor to start right out of school, because it can make them more prepared for private practice. The work is so challenging, it just makes anything else feel a little easier.”
Karla Smith, MD, family medicine physician in North Carolina, University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine

The debt payback plan: Dr. Smith paid off $100,000 of debt in four years by providing medical care in an underserved rural area, primarily working with uninsured patients under a loan repayment program run by North Carolina’s Office of Rural Health. In addition to paying a salary, the program also provides debt repayments that begin after six months of work and increase with each payment, so those who stay for the entire four years get the most debt repaid. (Note that this option only applies to federal student debt.)

Consolidating for A Lower Interest Rate

“I was fortunate enough to get a very large scholarship, so I had minimal loans. I consolidated them and have a very low interest rate, and so I am slowly paying them off over 30 years.”
—A New Jersey-based radiologist, Albert Einstein College of Medicine

The debt payback plan:
 This doctor kept her debt low by choosing to attend med school where she was offered a full-tuition scholarship. For living expenses, she took out federal loans; she opted to take out the maximum Stafford loan per year because they were interest-free during her student years.

Frugal Living—For Now

“I only applied to med schools that would offer financial support because I have no family that could help me. Every penny was completely and totally accounted for. I could only pay the bare minimum payments on my loans in my training. I drove a 1994 Mercury Tracer for nine years. I didn’t buy any new clothes. I didn’t take any vacations. I didn’t go to any of my friends’ weddings. There were two who got married when I was in training and I didn’t go. Money was always so tight. Even if I did have money, it would need to go to new tires or new brakes on my car.”
—Sophia Ford-Glanton, MD, urologist in St. Louis, Stanford University School of Medicine

The debt payback plan:  Dr. Ford-Glanton,  minimized her tuition through financial aid, federal grants, private scholarship, and working during medical school doing research and teaching. She lived frugally, but still needed some loans for living expenses. She currently owes a little over $60,000.

Applying to Work in Rural Areas, in Exchange for Debt Payoff

“I grew up in East Africa, in Kenya, and my intention was to finish my med school studies and then go back. But I realized that the conditions I was going to practice in in East Africa were essentially the same as here in rural areas. I thought about med school debt before I started, so I kept it low. I went to state schools and got scholarships.”
Catherine Harmon Toomer, MD, family health physician and researcher in South Carolina, Michigan State University College of Human Medicine

The debt payback plan:  Dr. Harmon Toomer, who owes $20,000, received a National Health Service Corps scholarship for all four years of medical school. Her schooling was paid for in full in return for her medical work in underserved areas in South Carolina for six and a half years (some of it full-time, some part-time). She says she got lucky, because that was the kind of work she wanted to do anyway.

There is no one solution for paying off medical school loans. Every doctor finds their own way to tackle their debt, whether it’s through a loan forgiveness program, a scholarship, or a refinance for a lower interest rate. 

ACOG has partnered with SoFi to bring members and their families the opportunity to save on student loan debt. If you or your family have medical school debt, you can refinance your student and Parent PLUS loans through to receive a 0.125 percent rate discount1.

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