Announcer:                      From the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda Maryland. This is all about grants

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Megan Columbus:           Welcome to All About Grants.  This is Megan Columbus from NIH's Office of Extramural Research here today to talk about NIH's Loan Repayment Programs.  Today I have Dr. Ericka Boone, the Director of NIH's Loan Repayment Programs here to give us some retails.  Welcome.

Dr. Ericka Boone:            Thank you.

Megan Columbus:           Can you talk to us a little bit about the overarching goals of the program?

Dr. Ericka Boone:            Sure.  The overarching goal of the Loan Repayment Program is to help recruit and retain promising young investigators into viable biomedical and biobehavioral research careers by helping them to pay back their student loan debt.  Many of these individuals by the time they're done with their education and training have accrued a significant level of educational debt, so they begin to have to make a decision sometimes whether they want to pursue research as a career and maintain a career that they really love and are passionate about, but may have to forego that due to financial constraints.  Those types of careers don't pay as much as maybe a career where they're practicing medicine or perhaps they are working in private industry, so many of these individuals are having to make the decision whether to stay in a career they love or to really be able to go on into a career where they can actually live.  So this is where the Loan Repayment Program comes in.  We help to reduce some of that financial burden by helping these individuals to pay back some of their student loans.

Megan Columbus:           So the Loan Repayment Programs have some focused programs, right?  Opportunities?

Dr. Ericka Boone:            Yes.

Megan Columbus:           Can you tell us a little bit about those?

Dr. Ericka Boone:            I can.  There are five Extramural NIH Loan Repayment Programs, and I'll probably be referring to them as LRP's.  So there is the Clinical Research LRP, the Pediatric Research LRP, Contraception and Infertility, Health Disparities, as well as Clinical Research for People, or Individuals, rather, from Disadvantaged Backgrounds.

Megan Columbus:           And so these are just major focuses of NIH where we're really trying to encourage...

Dr. Ericka Boone:            Yes, in areas where we're trying to encourage research.  Absolutely.

Megan Columbus:           Great, and so how do the LRP Programs work overall?

Dr. Ericka Boone:            Well, basically, this is how it works.  The researcher commits to performing at least two years of research in one of the five topical areas that we previously discussed.  NIH will repay up to thirty-five thousand dollars per year of their qualifying educational debt and cover resulting federal taxes, and the outcome really is increasing the nation's stock of biomedical research scientists, as well as really inspiring research, discovery, and innovation for our nation, as well as across the world.

Megan Columbus:           That's inspiring.  How would I know if I'm eligible as a researcher?

Dr. Ericka Boone:            There are several eligibility criteria.  For example, and individual and applicant must have a doctoral-level degree, so that's an M.D., a Ph.D., D.O., for example.  However, there is a caveat for the Contraception and Infertility Research LRP where a person could have more of an allied health degree such as nursing or physical therapy, something like that.  So a doctoral-level degree.  They must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.  They must be able to commit to conducting research for at least twenty hours per week.  They also must have educational loan debt that is equal to or greater than twenty percent of their base annual income.  And lastly, their research must be funded by a domestic non-profit source.  That could include funding from the U.S. government, although a person does not have to have an NIH grant in order to be eligible, but it can also include start-up funds from their university.

Megan Columbus:           Can you tell me a bit about the application cycle?  When are applications due, and even more importantly, when will funding be given for a funding application?

Dr. Ericka Boone:            Right.  "When am I going to get my money?"

Megan Columbus:           Yeah.

Dr. Ericka Boone:            Absolutely.  All applications are due by November the 15th.  Not only is the individual's application due, but also their recommendations, as well as verifications from their institutional business officials.

Megan Columbus:           As an applicant, do I get the money myself if I get awarded?

Dr. Ericka Boone:            Actually, you do not.  Actually, the payments will go to your lenders.

Megan Columbus:           Okay, directly.  Great.

Dr. Ericka Boone:            And I also need to make sure that I mention that the first lender payments are made in October.

Megan Columbus:           So basically a year from that–

Dr. Ericka Boone:            Basically a year.  Mm-hmm.

Megan Columbus:           –application date.  All right.  So it takes a little while.

Dr. Ericka Boone:            It takes a little while.  I also wanted to mention that the verifications that are due from the institutional business officials, it's really employment verification.  It's funding verification.  The person is who they say they are.  They're employed there.  They're getting paid.  Their research is supported.

Megan Columbus:           Great.  About how many researchers a year are we talking about get this funding?

Dr. Ericka Boone:            Well, actually, we receive almost three thousand applications in any given year, and about fifteen hundred applicants or fifteen hundred individuals are awarded a Loan Repayment Program award each year.  So the success rate is about fifty percent, which is so much better than any other mechanism for NIH out there.

Megan Columbus:           So much better than any research grants, that's for sure.

Dr. Ericka Boone:            It really is.  Really the whole focus is to keep these young investigators in the research workforce pipeline long enough for them to get that first K, to get that first R.

Megan Columbus:           Okay, and so when we look at who gets funded, is there any advantage if I'm an M.D. or a Ph.D. or what's the break out of funding?

Dr. Ericka Boone:            Really, the likelihood of receiving funding if you're an M.D. or a Ph.D. is almost even.  It's a little better for M.D.'s or individuals with M.D.'s and Ph.D.'s as opposed to Ph.D.'s, but it's pretty much even. 

Megan Columbus:           Nice.  Can you tell me then what are reviewers looking for in an LRP application, like, I guess the inside scoop on what makes for a good application?

Dr. Ericka Boone:            Absolutely.  Reviewers are looking for several things.  In particular, they're looking at an applicant's previous training and research experience, as well as their commitment to maintaining an active research career.  The strength and the quality of the letters of recommendation are extremely, extremely important, as well as the quality and appropriateness of the individual's research environment.


Megan Columbus:           Great.  So I assume that there's things that you need to do ahead of time, right?  So in order to do the application, you'll need letters of recommendations?  Who would those be from?

Dr. Ericka Boone:            Absolutely.  You do need letters of recommendation, and you need three.  So these would be people that actually know you.  They are going to be supportive of your career and will help contribute to the building of your career.  The last thing that a reviewer wants to see is a recommendation where the individual actually does not know the person.  They kind of aren't familiar with their research.  It's basically, "Johnny showed up to class every day and he got an A."  You really want someone who knows who you are, who knows the kind of passion that you bring to the table, the types of skills that you have, and the ones that you want to build.  This person really is supporting what is your life's work.

Megan Columbus:           And so somebody who can speak to your research career.

Dr. Ericka Boone:            Someone who can speak to the development of your research career and how they will be supportive of that.

Megan Columbus:           Are there anything else that applicants need to know?

Dr. Ericka Boone:            Actually, yes.  So all applicants—whether new or renewal—will need (inaudible @0:09:18) ID.  They need to speak with their research supervisors as well as their recommenders, and they also need to contact an NIH LRP liaison or program official and talk with them about the mission and vision for that institute or center, as well as how their research fits within that framework.  They should talk with them about success rates for their IC, or institute and center.  They should also talk with them about funding priorities for their institute and center.  The last thing as person would want is to submit that application, they've out a lot of hard work into it, only to find out that that institute and center doesn't really support the type of research that they're funding.

Megan Columbus:           So it's the institutes at NIH that are funding the loan repayment recipient?

Dr. Ericka Boone:            Absolutely.

Megan Columbus:           That's great.  I noticed that you referred to renewal applications.

Dr. Ericka Boone:            Yes.

Megan Columbus:           So someone gets funding, they get funding for two years, but they could eligible for renewal?

Dr. Ericka Boone:            Absolutely.  The initial LRP funding period is for two years.  When a person is thinking about applying for the Loan Repayment Program, they need to make sure that they have two years that they can devote to their research for that funding period.  After that, they may be eligible to apply for a renewal award, and they can be either one or two years, and the great thing about the Loan Repayment Program is that you can continue to apply for and receive an LRP award until your debt is down to zero.

Megan Columbus:           Really?

Dr. Ericka Boone:            Absolutely.  We have many, many individuals that contact us and let us know, "Hey, you guys have paid my last loan payment."

Megan Columbus:           What a great deal.

Dr. Ericka Boone:            Absolutely.  We actually got a tweet last week from an individual that was so excited that they had no more loan debt, and those are the types of stories that we like to hear.  So we get e-mails, and we get phone calls, and we get letters, and we get people who approach us at conferences all the time.  At the NIH regional meeting that was held in San Diego, one of our recipients was not able to attend the meeting because she had just had a baby, but she sent her husband.  She made sure that he came and let us know and let us know how much the Loan Repayment Program award has meant to their lives, because a lot of these young researchers are really kind of holding back on advancing in different areas of their lives—having children, buying homes, those types of things like that—because they have such significant student loan debt.  They're really just not able to afford to do that.

Megan Columbus:           Great.  Well, it sounds like this program could be just what they need.

Dr. Ericka Boone:            Absolutely.  I wish I had known about I when I was a post-doc.

Megan Columbus:           Thank you for joining us today.  For NIH and OER, this is Megan Columbus.

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Announcer:                      For more information on NIH’s loan repayment program, please visit the Division of Loan Repayments website at WWW.LRP.NIH.GOV again that’s WWW.LRP.NIH.GOV