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Anne Barleon Posted by Anne Barleone, an intern in the Primary Care Office at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

Student loans are weighing on the minds of most recent (and not so recent) college graduates. Having just earned my own degree, I know just how daunting student loans can be. You wonder if you’ll ever pay them off!

The good news is that if you’re in the healthcare field, there’s an exciting option that can help with your student loan burden while you pursue a rewarding career. The Massachusetts Loan Repayment Program (MLRP) provides health professionals with up to $50,000 toward outstanding educational loans as an incentive to work in a community where there is a significant shortage of health care providers or other barriers to care. Since its inception in 1990, the federal and state funded loan repayment program continues to enhance access to primary care across the state and assist organizations in the recruitment and retention of health professionals.

For Jeffrey Madonna, a clinician at a substance abuse outpatient center in Boston, the MLRP has meant the difference between being able to continue to work as a clinician with underserved patients, and having to abandon the field to find different work.

Growing up, many of Jeffrey’s family members worked in the human service field which instilled in him the importance of helping those who are less fortunate. He learned by watching his family that when you lend a hand to disadvantaged people, you are helping to create a better community. Early on he realized that he wanted to work in the mental health field, where he continues to practice today.

In working at an outpatient center there are a variety of complex challenges facing patients (medical issues, homelessness, drug addiction, and mental health). Jeffrey finds his work challenging but very rewarding, and recently he shared with us  what keeps him motivated.

Jeff Madonna

“The appeal is getting to work with a whole range of people with a range of problems who are struggling to survive and improve their situations,” he said. “It’s very moving to me to witness the great effort clients are putting into bettering themselves and the ups and downs they experience along the way.”

I asked Jeffrey if he thought working with underserved populations was the way to go. “For recent graduates, it’s a great learning experience,” he replied, going further to say that everyone who is the metal health or substance abuse field could really benefit from the ‘trench work’ experience that working with underserved populations offers. “Working in the clinical spaces that cater to underserved populations means exposure to complex clinical situations, where patients have a multitude of problems. The benefit to this kind of experience is that it really prepares the practitioner for wherever their career might take them.”

The MLRP has played a significant role in allowing Jeffrey to continue to pursue the career he always wanted, and he appreciates the opportunities MLRP has offered him. “The loan repayment program has made it financially feasible to remain in my current position and to do the work I enjoy doing.” That’s because  clinicians who choose to work with underserved populations are often not paid as highly as someone working in other clinical settings – which is even more of a disadvantage when you’re repaying big student loans. The MLRP allows clinicians to gain personal financial stability while serving communities in need.

Talking to Jeffrey opened my eyes to career opportunities that I hadn’t previously considered. In thinking about what type of career I want to work towards, knowing that an opportunity like the Massachusetts Loan Repayment Program is available could mean the difference between doing what I want to do and what I have to do.

Learn more about the MLRP.

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health communication writer and editor

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