This is another in a series of profiles of health care professionals who have benefited from the Massachusetts Loan Repayment Program (MLRP). The MLRP works to increase access to comprehensive primary care in underserved areas, by providing up to $50,000 towards outstanding educational loans for health professionals who commit to work at an eligible health care organization for two full-time years.
During college Dr. Nader Vakili satisfied his passion for science through coursework – and those science classes ended up leading him to a career in healthcare. “I kind of fell into the health field,” he says, and found himself wanting to provide care for underserved populations. “It had something to do with how my parents raised me, always trying to help those in need.” He laughed and added, “It had nothing to do with the money.”
Today, Dr. Vakili works as a general dentist at the Edward Kennedy Health Center in Framingham, providing everything from regular cleanings to emergency care to patients of all ages, most of whom are on MassHealth. The dental clinic is small, and Dr. Vakili is one of only two dentists on staff.
Asked about his typical work day, Dr. Vakili simply replies “it’s hectic”. The hours are long and patients are scheduled every half hour for most procedures. By the end of the day he is likely to have seen up to 20 patients, each with different complications. Many patients speak only Spanish or Portuguese, and many are medically compromised – all of which add further layers of complexity to the appointments.
Still, Dr. Vakili finds his work rewarding. “I am helping people out and doing my part in helping those in need,” he told us. He educates his patients on the importance of oral hygiene, to help make the connection between a healthy mouth and overall good health. “I am trying to help people everyday by preventing and eliminating disease,” he says.
It was while overseas in Germany serving as a dentist for the United States Army that Dr. Vakili began researching loan repayment options. He was interested in working at the Edward Kennedy Community Health Center, but knew the pay would be lower than that of a private practice — and not enough to cover his student loans in addition to other living expenses. When he discovered the Massachusetts Loan Repayment Program (MLRP) and learned that the Edward Kennedy Community Health Center qualified, the possibility of working with the underserved suddenly seemed more feasible. He accepted the position at the health center and soon after was accepted into the MLRP. It’s made a huge difference in his life. “If it weren’t for the MLRP, I would have probably been forced to practice in the private sector or get a second job,” he says, “neither of which I would want to do.”