Frequently asked questions
Abigail Geisinger Scholars Program
Subject to changes and updates. Last update: Sept. 29, 2021
What are the selection criteria?
- Financial need,
- Merit -- combining academic performance with service and other characteristics, such as a desire to serve in primary care in communities in the Geisinger footprint,
- Likelihood of staying at Geisinger beyond service obligation.
What are the financial benefits?
Funding for a maximum of four years for tuition, required fees and a $2,000 per month stipend.
What does “service commitment” mean?
Service commitment means working as a Geisinger-employed physician. For example, two years of such service equals two years of medical-school tuition, fees and stipend loans forgiven – four years of service would result in four years of medical-school tuition, fees and stipend loans forgiven.
What about my other debt?
The loan forgiveness is for tuition, fees and the stipend only. Previous debt is not eligible for the Abigail Geisinger Scholars Program.
Must I choose a specific medical specialty to be eligible to apply?
Yes. The specialties are family medicine, internal medicine, medicine-pediatrics and psychiatry.
Must I do a residency at Geisinger if I accept this award?
No. Recipients are free to Match at any program or hospital. The service obligation begins after residency.
What if I wish to pursue a discipline not on the list provided?
Geisinger projects a need for clinicians in the following specialties of family medicine, internal medicine, medicine-pediatrics and psychiatry.
Are there other benefits to the award during my medical school training?
Yes. For clinical experiences, Abigail Geisinger Scholars Program recipients will be prioritized to Geisinger sites and assigned a Geisinger clinician as an advisor for their four years. They will also have the opportunity to pursue research projects with Geisinger investigators.
Are there any tax considerations I should think about?
Yes. During the employed forgiveness period, the loan amount forgiven is treated as compensation for tax purposes. The Abigail Geisinger Scholars Program recipient is responsible for any tax debt resulting from such additional taxable wages. Geisinger will provide a schedule showing the principal award amounts paid for annual tuition, fees and stipend; accrued interest from date of hire; Loan Fund forgiveness by calendar year; and estimated tax withholding resulting from Geisinger's forgiveness of the awardee’s obligation to repay the Loan Funds. At the end of each calendar year of active employment, an awardee’s W-2 statement from Geisinger will show taxable wages for the calendar year, including the taxable wages resulting from Geisinger's forgiveness of the recipient’s obligation to repay the Loan Funds; and withholdings taken by Geisinger during the calendar year from the recipient's taxable wages.
Is there anything else I should know about tax liability?
Yes. Future tax liability is mitigated by the fact that interest has not accrued during medical school or residency.
What if I decide to pursue a career with another employer?
Should a recipient be offered employment by Geisinger and reject it or should a recipient become employed by Geisinger but fail to complete the required employment period, the amount of the award received (and not yet forgiven, as the case may be) must be repaid to Geisinger with interest equal to the rate set for Federal Direct Subsidized Loans. The amounts must be repaid in equal monthly installments over a 10-year period. In this instance, loan repayment begins within 10 days of written notice from Geisinger of the repayment obligation. Currently, the loan agreement does not include penalties for delinquent or late loan repayments. However, the loan interest amounts will increase as a result of late payments.
What if I choose to take a research year or time to obtain another degree before completing the MD?
Pursuing a research year or another degree are possible as an Abigail Geisinger Scholars Program recipient, provided Geisinger waives the expectation of graduating within four years.
What if I must take medical or personal leave?
Abigail Geisinger Scholars Program recipients may continue in the program should they need to take medical or personal leave, provided Geisinger waives the expectation of graduating within four years.
Will I have academic performance requirements?
If an award recipient has a documented performance concern, the service award will be terminated and any award already received must be repaid with interest equal to the rate set by Federal Direct Subsidized Loans. The amounts must be repaid in equal monthly installments over a 10-year period (similarly for documented performance concerns in residency). In the event an Abigail Geisinger Scholars Program award is converted to a loan due to performance and/or quality concerns, loan repayment begins within 10 days of written notice from Geisinger of the repayment obligation. Written notice will be delivered at the time a recipient completes his or her training.
Can you explain what might be considered a “performance” concern?
Any recipient who must repeat any academic year after accepting an Abigail Geisinger Scholars Program award will be deemed ineligible. Also, the award may be terminated if a recipient fails to graduate within four years of initial enrollment at GCSOM, unless otherwise approved in writing by Geisinger. Certain disciplinary actions may deem a recipient ineligible. Also, the awardee must remain in good professional standing throughout the time period of the agreement.
Can I choose my Geisinger service location?
The Abigail Geisinger Scholars Program is mission-driven and designed to encourage physicians to go where they are most needed. For this reason, when Abigail Geisinger Scholars Program recipients’ period of service begins, Geisinger retains the right to deploy these physicians to any area within Geisinger’s health system footprint.
Are there any instances in which Geisinger would forgive my loan even if I do not fulfill the service terms?
Yes. Geisinger agrees to forgive the obligation of the recipient to repay any remaining loan funds should the recipient die; should the recipient become disabled; or should the recipient's employment with Geisinger involuntarily end for reasons other than cause (for example, if Geisinger reduces its work force or restructures its organization resulting in job elimination and Geisinger fails to offer comparable employment). Per IRS guidance, the total amount forgiven will be reported as taxable income to the awardee.
Are relocation expenses available?
Once I am assigned a Geisinger location, can it change during my service time?
Although being reassigned is unlikely, it is a possibility.
When are recipients notified that they have been chosen?
Recipients are notified after all application materials have been received and the selection committee reviews the submitted information to determine who will receive the Abigail Geisinger Scholars Program awards.
How are recipients notified that they have been chosen?
Recipients will be notified via email and a hard copy of the notification will be sent to the mailing address on file.
For the Abigail Geisinger Scholars Program, will the curriculum be more focused on these specialties?
Currently, the medical curriculum is the same for all students. However, our Abigail Geisinger Scholars will have priority assignments in Geisinger signature programs such as Geisinger 65Forward, the Fresh Food Farmacy, Geisinger at Home and the MyCode Community Health Initiative. In our curricular renewal there will be an increased emphasis on primary care for all students; in addition, we are considering a special track focusing on primary care.
Could you please elaborate on what the medicine-pediatrics specialty means for the Abigail Geisinger Scholars Program?
The residency programs in internal medicine and in pediatrics are three years in length and allow for board certification. The residency in medicine-pediatrics covers both specialties in four years leading to board certification in both specialties.
If you do your residency at Geisinger, does that count towards your service?
Residency programs do not count towards service or loan payback because residency is a time of training and not a time of service.
Once you become a Geisinger physician after residency, would your salary be comparable to a first-year attending in that similar area?
Yes, base salary is competitive with clinics and healthcare systems. Geisinger benchmarks to national survey data and the healthcare system shares data with 61 clinics nationwide to be able to offer some of the most competitive salaries.
Will the recipients receive preferential status if applying for a residency position at a Geisinger location?
On a practical level it is likely that Geisinger residencies will favor these scholars. The residency Match prohibits guaranteeing positions in residency programs.
If selected for the Abigail Geisinger Scholars Program, how does this impact regional campus selection?
GCSOM uses a lottery system for campus assignment. If you are accepted into the Abigail Geisinger Scholars Program, your lottery and campus placement will be to a Geisinger clinical site. All students will be notified of their lottery campus assignment before orientation via the pre-enrollment Canvas page and email.
Who is the contact person for questions regarding the program while I am a student at Geisinger?
Dr. Michelle Schmude, associate dean for Admissions, Enrollment Management and Financial Aid, or Sue McNamara, director of Financial Aid
Who is the contact person should I have questions about fulfilling my obligations while in residency?
Kelly Moore, associate vice president, Compensation
Who is the contact person should I have questions once I am employed as a physician at Geisinger?
Kelly Moore, associate vice president, Compensation
Do I need to re-apply every year?
Students do not need to reapply every year; however, their records will be monitored to ensure they are meeting the requirements to receive an Abigail Geisinger Scholars Program award. Also, for each year of support, students will need to sign a new Loan Agreement for additional loan amounts set forth and will then also receive the required disclosures.
How do I apply?
Students interested in applying for the Abigail Geisinger Scholars Program must: Submit an AMCAS primary application and Geisinger Commonwealth secondary application; Answer “yes” to the first question on the Geisinger Commonwealth secondary application regarding interest in applying for the Abigail Geisinger Scholars Program; Complete the question regarding primary care and provide any updates to your experiences that align with the Abigail Geisinger Scholars Program.
Be sure to sign up for the Abigail Geisinger Scholars Program educational sessions. Staff from Geisinger’s legal and accounting departments will be present to answer questions, as will representatives from the School of Medicine’s financial aid team.
You can also learn about the Abigail Geisinger Scholars Program by attending one of our MD admissions events.
Are there tax implications from receiving the monthly stipend or the service award for select specialties?
This income will be considered taxable, and scholars will receive a 1099 from Geisinger for the year in which they receive the income. Please confer with your tax advisor for more specific details regarding your personal tax situation.
Will the scholar receive their stipend over the summer months?
Stipends for all new and incoming students run from August through July. Thereafter, the stipends are distributed on a July to June schedule.
Can a scholar be employed in a part-time fashion at GCSOM, such as Summer Research Immersion Program (SRIP) or tutor, while receiving the monthly stipend?
Yes, students are eligible to receive supplemental income from GCSOM or Geisinger for services unrelated to the scholar program.
How will the "payback years" look in terms of pay, maternity leave, etc.?
Each scholar will receive their final amortization schedule during their first month of employment at Geisinger. The taxable portion of the loan forgiveness will be subject to normal withholding as a Geisinger employee. Maternity leave and vacation policies are applicable to all Geisinger employees regardless of scholar status as defined in the Geisinger HR handbook.
Will the scholar have a voice regarding their work schedule and location?
Scholars are expected to participate in full-time employment. Geisinger will make best efforts to work with the scholar to identify practice location and interests. The final decision regarding type of work and location is determined by Geisinger’s needs.
Are scholars allowed to go to AtlantiCare or Guthrie for regional campus assignments?
Scholars are prioritized to Geisinger campuses but can select AtlantiCare or Guthrie at their discretion.
Can a scholar pursue a fellowship opportunity after four-year commitment to primary care?
The intention of this program is to encourage scholars to remain within the field of primary care. If a student chooses to pursue a fellowship, they may do so only after completion of their service obligation to Geisinger.