The National Institutes of Health (NIH) Loan Repayment Programs (LRPs) are a set of Congressionally mandated programs designed to recruit and retain promising early stage investigators conducting research in NIH mission critical areas. An oft-cited barrier to entering research careers, which often pay less than clinical practice or pharmaceutical industry careers, is significant amounts of student loan debt. Since their inception, the NIH LRPs have funded more than 20,000 new and renewal awards totaling more than $950 million to help biomedical and behavioral research scientists repay their educational debt while maintaining their careers as biomedical and behavioral researchers.
In 2001, the United States Congress passed legislation to expand the LRPs, which ushered in the Health Disparities Research LRP (HDR-LRP) and Clinical Research LRP for Individuals from Disadvantaged Backgrounds (IDB-LRP). During the inaugural year of these two programs, NIH allocated $1.973 million through the (then) National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NCMHD) to fund 45 awards (28 HDR-LRP and 17 IDB-LRP).
“As soon as I heard about the NIH Loan Repayment Program (LRP) in 2010 as a PhD student at Texas A&M University, I immediately started building a research portfolio in hopes that one day I would be a great fit for the health disparities research-focused LRP”, said Dr. Charles R. Rogers, Assistant Professor, University of Utah School of Medicine. “$100K towards my student loans for 2 years was a game changer for my family, and even more motivation for me to continue conducting life-saving research while strengthening my craft.”
In September 2019, the NIH expanded participation in the Health Disparities Research LRP to include all NIH Institutes and Centers (ICs). Previously, all HDR-LRP applications were assigned to and reviewed solely by the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD). During the first year of expanded NIH IC participation, 170 applicants received an award from 20 ICs, which represented more than double the 83 awards made the year before. It also represented the HDR-LRP's highest success rate (36%) since FY 2014. To date, the HDR-LRP and IDB-LRP have paid more than $200 million in student debt repayment and distributed over 4,000 awards.
“The LRPs have been remarkably successful in achieving the goal of facilitating research careers for early-stage scientists”, said Ericka Boone, Ph.D., Director, Division of Loan Repayment. “We are proud of the impact of all of our programs, but we are particularly proud of the impacts that the Health Disparities Research and Clinical Research DB LRPs have had on advancing scientific knowledge and the careers of thousands of investigators that have been supported by these programs over last 20 years.”
This year, the LRP application cycle will open on September 1st and close on November 18th. Applicants are strongly encouraged to review each IC Mission and Research Priorities statement and then contact one or more IC scientific LRP liaisons to discuss their research and career interests as they relate to the IC's research and funding priorities. Research and funding priorities can change yearly, so it is important that applicants contact a liaison – ideally in advance of the opening of the application cycle – to ensure an appropriate understanding of IC priorities. You can find the list of IC scientific LRP liaisons on the Contact & Engage page.
For additional assistance, you can call or e-mail the LRP Information Center at 866-849-4047 (Mon-Fri 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. EST) or firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow the NIH Division of Loan Repayment on Twitter and Facebook for more information and updates about the NIH LRPs.
By: Omar McCrimmon, M.A.