Director of the National Institutes of Health Division of Loan Repayment Dr. Ericka Boone reports on how recent public health graduates can address their student debt and jumpstart a career in research through the NIH’s Loan Repayment Programs.

Erica BooneTowering levels of student loan debt – amassed during extended periods of education and training – are an often-cited barrier for newly trained health professionals to enter into research careers. In exchange for a commitment to engage in mission-critical research, the National Institutes of Health can repay up to $70,000 of student loan debt over two years through the NIH Loan Repayment Programs, or LRPs.

The objective of the NIH LRPs is to recruit and retain highly qualified health professionals to careers in biomedical or biobehavioral research. While the Health Disparities Research LRP is already well known among APHA members, there are four other programs, including:

  • Clinical Research Extramural LRP, patient-oriented research conducted with human subjects;
  • Pediatric Research Extramural LRP, research that is directly related to diseases, disorders and other conditions in children;
  • Health Disparities Research Extramural LRP, research that focuses on minority and other health disparity populations;
  • Contraception and Infertility Research Extramural LRP, research on conditions impacting the ability to conceive and bear young; and
  • Clinical Research for Individuals from Disadvantaged Backgrounds Extramural LRP, available to clinical investigators from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Each LRP is unique, with tremendous benefit to early stage researchers. Approximately 1,500 scientists benefit annually from the $68 million NIH invests each year through the LRPs. On average, nearly 50 percent of LRP applications are funded, and are eligible for competitive renewal for a one- or two-year period until all educational debt is repaid.

To qualify, applicants must be a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident, possess a doctoral-level degree (with the exception of the contraception and infertility research LRP), have educational loan debt up to or exceeding 20 percent of his or her annual institutional base salary, and commit to engage in NIH mission-relevant research for at least 20 hours per week at a nonprofit or government institution.

Interested in applying? Here are a few options to start the process:

  • Contact an NIH LRP Program Officer to discuss research priority areas
  • Download the LRP Application Instruction Booklet
  • Review the application tips available in Tips for Completing a Competitive Application
  • Check out the LRP payment estimator
  • Check out the Ambassador Program that helps pair applicants with past and present LRP awardees.

Visit for more details and to apply. LRP applications are accepted between Sept. 1 and Nov. 15, 2018. For additional assistance, call or email the LRP Information Center at 866-849-4047 or You can also follow the NIH Division of Loan Repayment on Twitter and Facebook for more information and cycle updates.