Purpose-driven program will keep young doctors in region to practice
The future just got a lot brighter and healthier for the communities that Geisinger serves. Through the innovative Abigail Geisinger Scholars Program, Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine (GCSOM) has announced that 10 doctors-in-training have committed to staying in the region to practice medicine with the unique blend of personal caring and scientific sophistication that has become synonymous with Geisinger.
Abigail Geisinger Scholars pay no tuition, in exchange for an obligation to work at Geisinger once they finish residency.
“I am proud to announce the first round of Abigail Geisinger Scholars,” said Steven J. Scheinman, MD, GCSOM president and dean and executive vice president, Geisinger. “These students are brilliant but, more importantly, they are devoted to our region and have promised to serve as Geisinger physicians in their future. Because of their commitment, they will have no medical school tuition debt. We can think of no better way to free our scholars to practice medicine in the way GCSOM is teaching them – with caring rooted in scientific evidence and centered around the patient – than by forgiving the debt that might otherwise dictate their career choices.”
The announcement marks the first Abigail Geisinger Scholars Program awards distribution to qualified medical students at GCSOM. The purpose-driven program selects students through a competitive application process. Those chosen pay no tuition, in exchange for an obligation to work at Geisinger once they finish residency. Preference is given to students who express a desire to care for the communities Geisinger serves. Selection criteria includes demonstrated financial need, academic merit, diversity and predictors of whether the applicant is likely to stay in the region Geisinger serves. According to Dr. Scheinman, no fewer than 10 awards will be made annually, with an eye toward expanding the number of recipients in the coming years.
Medical school debt can be crushing. According to the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC), average medical student debt is $192,000 and one out of five students accumulates debt of more than $300,000. GCSOM students graduate with an average debt of $256,000.
Such debt can drive students’ career decisions. The Abigail Geisinger Scholars Program debt forgiveness empowers GCSOM students to follow their passion, not their balance sheet. For example, award recipient Saran Kunaprayoon, a second-year medical student from Bethlehem, said interest accumulating on loans as he pursues a career with lengthy residency requirements was a concern. “I have always dreamed of working in the neurosciences as a physician ever since high school. Through this program, I will be able to focus on my dream with the support from Geisinger and also serve and enhance the health of the community that nurtured me through all these years,” he said.
For Jeremy Tokash and his family, receiving the award means the Scranton native is assured of practicing medicine among the people he loves. “I went to West Scranton High School. My family is from West Scranton, so is my fiancée, Maria’s,” he said. “I have deep roots here so it’s great to know I will be able to stay in the community I want to care for,” he said.
“The Abigail Geisinger Scholars Program was the perfect opportunity for me,” said Tara Fritz, a Danville native interested in pediatrics. “I grew up in the area and always intended to return, so ever since I heard about the program, I’ve been holding my breath. I wanted it so badly. But now I can breathe and focus on my future.”
The first Abigail Geisinger Scholars Program recipients are:
MD Class of 2021
- Alexa Bolock, from Waverly
- Hannah Bohr, from Williamsport
- Max Cornell, from Jermyn
- Tara Fritz, from Danville
- Saran Kunaprayoon, from Bethlehem
- Jeremy Tokash, from Scranton
MD Class of 2022
- Anton Androsov, from Roanoke, Va.
- Youngeun Choi, from Montgomery, Pa.
- Alex Mettler, from Danville
- John Pacheco, from Harrisville, R.I.
Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine (Geisinger Commonwealth) is a member of the Geisinger family. Geisinger Commonwealth offers a community-based model of medical education with campuses in Danville, Doylestown, Scranton, Sayre and Wilkes-Barre. Geisinger Commonwealth offers Doctor of Medicine (MD) and Master of Biomedical Sciences (MBS) degrees. The school’s innovative curriculum, focused on caring for people in the context of their lives and their community, attracts the next generation of physicians and scientists from within its region in northeastern and central Pennsylvania, as well as from across the state and the nation. The school also has over 440 graduate medical students in 24 residency programs and 19 accredited fellowships. Geisinger Commonwealth is committed to non-discrimination in all employment and educational opportunities. For more information, visit www.geisinger.edu/gcsom, or connect with us on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter.
One of the nation’s most innovative health services organizations, Geisinger serves more than 1.5 million patients in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The system includes 13 hospital campuses, a nearly 600,000-member health plan, two research centers and the Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine. Geisinger is known for its focus on caring and innovative programs including the ProvenCare® best-practice approach to maximize quality, safety and value; ProvenHealth Navigator® advanced medical home; Springboard Health® population health program to improve the health of an entire community; ProvenExperience™ to provide refunds to patients unhappy with their care experience; and Geisinger’s MyCode® Community Health Initiative, the largest healthcare system-based precision health project in the world. With more than 215,000 volunteer participants enrolled, MyCode is conducting extensive research and returning medically actionable results to participants. A physician-led organization, with approximately 32,000 employees and more than 1,800 employed physicians, Geisinger leverages an estimated $12.7 billion positive annual impact on the Pennsylvania and New Jersey economies. Repeatedly recognized nationally for integration, quality and service, Geisinger has a long-standing commitment to patient care, medical education, research and community service. For more information, visit www.geisinger.org, or connect with us on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter.
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