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University of Arizona offers free tuition to medical students who pledge to train in primary care

The University of Arizona's College of Medicine announced Friday that it will give free tuition to students who agree to practice primary care in underserved communities.

The university said in an online release that the move was an attempt to address a shortage of primary care physicians and the growing epidemic of student debt. The state reportedly only meets 40 percent of its need for primary care physicians, with underserved areas being hit the hardest.

To be eligible for free tuition as early as this spring, students must pledge to practice primary care for at least two years after completing their residency. That continuous commitment has to start within six years of graduating from medical school and completed within 10 years of graduating.

"Arizona needs nearly 600 primary care physicians today, and the number is expected to grow to more than 1,900 by 2030," Dr. Michael Dake, senior vice president for the University of Arizona Health Sciences, wrote in the release.

"As the state's only two designated medical schools, the College of Medicine - Tucson and the College of Medicine - Phoenix are taking full advantage of the public investment approved by our state legislators, who recognize the time to address this shortage is now," he added.

The programs are getting a hand from the state legislature, which in May allocated a portion of $8 million in annual funding that could cover tuition for nearly 100 students, or 10 percent of the student body, the release said.

Gov. Doug Ducey (R) said Friday in an online release about the proposal that "ensuring every Arizona resident, whether in rural communities or urban cities, has access to quality health care is a top priority for Arizona."

"My thanks to the University of Arizona as well as health care leaders and medical professionals across the state who continuously demonstrate their commitment to Arizona's health care industry," he said in the release.

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