The University of Arizona Colleges of Medicine in Tucson and Phoenix began providing free tuition in the spring semester to students who agree to practice primary care in a federally designated underserved community in Arizona for at least two years after completing their residency. This is a move to address both the severe statewide shortage of primary care physicians and the growing burden of student debt.
Arizona currently meets only 40% of its need for primary care physicians, according to the Health Resources and Services Administration, and underserved areas are especially hard hit. Newly released U.S. Census data shows Arizona is among the top three states in the country for population growth.
“Arizona needs nearly 600 primary care physicians today, and the number is expected to grow to more than 1,900 by 2030,” said Michael D. Dake, M.D., senior vice president for UArizona Health Sciences. “As the state’s only two designated medical schools, the Colleges of Medicine in Tucson and Phoenix are taking full advantage of the public investment approved by our state legislators, who recognize the time to address this shortage is now.”
With a portion of $8 million in annual funding appropriated by the Arizona Legislature in May, nearly 100 students — approximately 10 percent of the student body — could receive free tuition at the two medical schools. The remaining funding will expand the College of Medicine-Phoenix class size.
“The issue of student debt is a major roadblock for many people who have the potential to be great doctors. It keeps many individuals from even applying to medical school,” Dake said.
To be eligible, an applicant must be an Arizona resident and current full-time medical student enrolled in one of the UArizona Colleges of Medicine. In exchange for receiving a scholarship, students will be obligated to practice clinically in a federally designated underserved community or health professional shortage area in Arizona for at least two years, starting within six years of graduation from medical school, and complete this commitment within 10 years of graduation.