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Program pays off school loans

Tom Jackson • Apr 2, 2014 at 11:31 AM

Fremont dentist Dr. Courtney Levine believes in helping people find a place to go when they need dental or medical care.

Because of this attitude, the U.S. government was willing to help her. After she enrolled in the National Health Service Corps, the government paid off more than $100,000 of her school loans.

Levine, 32, a native of the Chicago area, has worked since August for Community Health Services, a community health clinic in Fremont that opens its doors to everyone, regardless of ability to pay. Before coming to Fremont, she worked five years for a community health center in Wisconsin.

She said she feels good about helping people who come in with a toothache or who have lost a front tooth.

“You literally are putting smiles back onto people’s faces,” she said. “I know that sounds very cliche, but it’s the truth”

Levine grew up in a Chicago suburb. She said she never had to worry about getting treatment. “When I was young, if I got sick, I went to the doctor,” she said. “If I had a toothache, I went to the dentist” She said community health centers, such as the one in Fremont, make sure everyone can get treatment. “Community health gives people a place to go” she said. “We give the best care that we can.” Levine’s undergraduate degree was in Spanish. A considerable number of patients in Fremont speak Spanish, but her language skills will also be helpful when migrant farm workers start to arrive in the area. “To help communicate with those patients is going to be huge, because I speak fluent Spanish” Levine said.

Being able to explain to the patients what she is going to do is important.

The National Health Service Corps has two programs: a scholarship program that pays expenses in medical or dental school, with a commitment to work after graduation in community health, and a loan payoff program.

Levine had already worked in community health for a few years before joining the National Health Service Corps in May 2010. She is now completing her second round in the program, which has paid off $110,000 of her loans.

Levine said service isn’t really about the money, but it’s been helpful to get much of her debt paid off. Soon, she’ll have her debt down to a few thousand dollars.

“Of course, I love that I won’t have any more loans” she said.

Information on the National Health Service Corps is available at nhsc.hrsa.gov.

A spokesman said Ohio has been served by 234 health care providers enrolled in the loan repayment program.

Levine said she hopes more people become aware of the National Health Service Corps, and the rewards of working in community health.

“It’s very rewarding to serve these people” she said. “I love the people. They’re so appreciative of what you do for them”

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