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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.

About Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine

Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine (GCSOM) is a member of the Geisinger family. GCSOM offers a community-based model of medical education with campuses in Danville, Lewistown, Scranton, Sayre and Wilkes-Barre. Geisinger Commonwealth offers Doctor of Medicine (MD) and a portfolio of graduate 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, as well as from across the state and the nation. Geisinger Commonwealth is committed to non-discrimination in all employment and educational opportunities. Visit www.geisinger.edu/gcsom.

About Geisinger
Geisinger is among the nation’s leading providers of value-based care, serving 1.2 million people in urban and rural communities across Pennsylvania. Founded in 1915 by philanthropist Abigail Geisinger, the nonprofit system generates $10 billion in annual revenues across 126 care sites — including 10 hospital campuses — and Geisinger Health Plan, with more than half a million members in commercial and government plans. Geisinger College of Health Sciences educates more than 5,000 medical professionals annually and conducts more than 1,400 clinical research studies. With 26,000 employees, including 1,700 employed physicians, Geisinger is among Pennsylvania’s largest employers with an estimated economic impact of $15 billion to the state’s economy. On March 31, 2024, Geisinger became the first member of Risant Health, a new nonprofit charitable organization created to expand and accelerate value-based care across the country. Learn more at geisinger.org or follow on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and X.

Abigail Geisinger Scholars Program gcsom students 2019
Seen from left are Max Cornell, Tara Fritz, Hannah Bohr, Alexa Bolock, Jeremy Tokash, Alex Mettler, John Pacheco and Anton Androsov. Not pictured: Youngeun Choi and Saran Kunaprayoon.
Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine
Elizabeth Zygmunt
Director, Media and Public Relations 
Office: 570-504-9687
On Call: 570-687-9703
ezygmunt@som.geisinger.edu
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