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Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2008 11:09 pm

Team spirit

Team spirit

In the midst of addressing the nation’s economic recovery plans and appealing for former Governor George Ryan’s release from prison, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D.-Ill.) penciled in time to listen to the future.

Last week he sat down with several medical students at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine and heard their thoughts on two interrelated medical issues: student debt and the shortage of primary care physicians.

Third-year medical student Sameer Vohra spoke to Durbin about the problem and later explained it to Cap City. “Most of us have debt in the upper $100,000 [range], and the national average is almost $150,000,” he says. “That takes away a lot of opportunities for people who might be considering medicine or they go after specialty that will pay more money in order to pay off debt.” That leaves fewer doctors to provide preventative and basic healthcare to communities, Vohra continues.

They asked Durbin to implement legislation similar to his John R. Justice Prosecutors and Defenders Act, which offers law students $10,000 a year toward loan debt if they sign on as prosecutors and public defenders for three-year terms. Vohra says Durbin seemed intrigued by the idea, and after the meeting, Durbin gave Cap City the skinny: “We should really devise a system to help defer or to forgive student debt if these students will go into specialties where they’re needed and go into areas of our country where we have physician shortages. That, to me, would be money well spent.”

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