Dentists wanted: Loan repayment program seeks applicants
Program aimed to increase access to care in rural MN communities
MINNEAPOLIS – Of Minnesota’s 87 counties, more than 50 are considered dental health professional shortage areas (HPSAs) by the federal government, many of them in rural communities throughout the state. For those living in dental HPSA areas, it can be difficult to find a dentist near enough their home to maintain their oral health.
In 2014, Delta Dental of Minnesota Foundation kick-started a loan repayment for service program to repay up to $200,000 in student loans for dentists who locate in underserved Minnesota communities, commit to practicing there for at least five years, and see at least 15 percent public program patients. In its third year, this “Dedicated to Minnesota Dentists” program is again seeking applicants.
The average student loan debt of graduating dentists exceeds $250,000, which is a barrier to new dentists practicing in Greater Minnesota. The Dedicated to Minnesota Dentists program helps to address both the high student loan debt and the access to care challenges in Greater Minnesota.
“We believe that everyone deserves a healthy smile,” said Joe Lally, Executive Director of Delta Dental of Minnesota Foundation. “Through this program, we are aiming to create long-term solutions that strengthen all of our communities through oral health.”
Since 2014, nine dentists have been selected for the program, which works to increase access to quality, dependable dental care for Minnesotans who live in areas where there is a shortage of dental providers. Ideally, the program funds dentists who otherwise would not work in an underserved area. Current program participants work in the cities of Benson, Cook, Deerwood, Ely, International Falls, Mora, Ogema, Walker and Warroad.
To qualify for the loan repayment for service program, applicants must commit to practicing a minimum of five years in Minnesota’s federally designated dental Health Professional Shortage Areas, which include:
- Faribault County
- Morrison County
- Nobles County
- Norman County
- Pennington County
- Pine County
- Stearns County
- Swift County
- Todd County
- Wadena County
- Winona County
The application period is open September 5 through November 3, 2017. Recipients will be selected by March 2018.
Funding and administration of the Dedicated to Minnesota Dentists Program is provided by Delta Dental of Minnesota Foundation, which works in collaboration with the Minnesota Dental Foundation for program promotion and candidate selection.
To apply, or to learn more about the program, visit dedicatedmndentists.org.
Minnesota Dental Foundation:
The Minnesota Dental Foundation is a 501(c)(3) not- for- profit public foundation whose vision is to eliminate unmet oral health needs in Minnesota by initiating and supporting outreach programs that provide dental services to underserved populations and communities; encouraging and supporting volunteerism within the profession; and promoting careers in dentistry, especially in underserved areas.
Delta Dental of Minnesota Foundation:
In 2009, Delta Dental of Minnesota’s parent sold a company and used 100 percent of the proceeds to establish and fund Delta Dental of Minnesota Foundation. Delta Dental of Minnesota Foundation supports Delta Dental of Minnesota’s mission of improving the health of Minnesotans through oral health. Delta Dental of Minnesota Foundation works to expand access to dental care for Minnesota’s underserved populations across the state by primarily investing in programs and organizations that provide dental care to people in need. Since 2011, the foundation has invested more than $21 million in grants to nearly 70 programs and organizations that provide care and promote oral health.