Loan Repayment Program for Health Disparities Research (LRP)

RELEASE DATE:  August 21, 2007

FUNDING OPPORTUNITY ANNOUNCEMENT (FOA):  PA-07-439

National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NCMHD) (www.ncmhd.nih.gov)

APPLICATION PERIOD: September 1, 2007 through December 1, 2007, 8 p.m. EST

Update: The following update relating to this announcement has been issued:

THIS ANNOUNCEMENT CONTAINS THE FOLLOWING INFORMATION:       

PURPOSE OF THIS ANNOUNCEMENT

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NCMHD) announce the availability of educational loan repayment under the Loan Repayment Program for Health Disparities Research (HDR-LRP or Program).  

The HDR-LRP provides for the repayment of educational loan debt of up to $35,000 annually for qualified health professionals conducting minority health or other health disparities research for domestic non-profit or government entities.  Payments equal to 39 percent of the loan repayments are issued to the Internal Revenue Service on behalf of the program participants to offset Federal tax liabilities incurred as a result of participating in the program. The Program may also provide reimbursement for state and local tax liabilities.

Through this announcement, NIH and NCMHD invite qualified health professionals who contractually agree to engage in minority health or other health disparities research for at least two years, and who agree to engage in this area of research for at least 50 percent of their work schedule (not less than 20 hours per week based on a 40-hour work week), to apply for participation in the Loan Repayment Program for Health Disparities Research.

HDR-LRP applications will be accepted from September 1, through December 1, 2007.  Applications must be submitted via the NIH Loan Repayment Website, www.lrp.nih.gov.

WHERE TO OBTAIN ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

For questions on the HDR-LRP program, please see the LRP website at http://www.lrp.nih.gov, send an email to lrp@nih.gov, call the LRP helpline at (866) 849-4047 or contact the NCMHD Loan Repayment Program Coordinator at (301) 594-8704.

PROGRAM OBJECTIVES

The objective of the HDR-LRP is the recruitment and retention of highly qualified health professionals to research careers that focus on minority health or other health disparity issues. 

The Program serves as an avenue for NIH and the NCMHD to engage and promote the development of research programs that reflect the variety of issues and problems associated with disparities in health status.  In addition, the Director, NCMHD, is statutorily required to ensure that not fewer than 50 percent of the contracts are awarded to qualified health professionals that are members of health disparities populations. This requirement highlights the need for the involvement of a cadre of culturally competent health professionals in minority health and other health disparities research.

“Health disparity populations” are determined by the Director of NCMHD, after consultation with the Director of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, and are defined as populations where there is significant disparity in the overall rate of disease incidence, prevalence, morbidity, mortality, or survival rates as compared to the health status of the general population.   For purposes of this announcement, the following populations have been designated as health disparity populations: Blacks/African Americans, Hispanics/Latinos, Native Americans, Alaska Natives, Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders and the medically underserved, i.e., individuals from the Appalachian region.

“Health disparities research” is defined as basic, clinical, or behavioral research on a health disparities population (including individual members and communities of such populations) including the causes of such health disparities and methods to prevent, diagnose and treat such disparities.

Medically underserved” refers to individuals that lack access to primary and specialty care either because they are socioeconomically disadvantaged and may or may not live in areas with high poverty rates or because they reside in rural areas.  The term also refers to individuals that reside in geographic areas where the Index of Medical Underservice (IMU) is 62 or less.  The Health Resource Services Administration (HRSA) criteria designate a service area with an IMU of 62 or less as a “medically underserved area (MUA)”. The IMU is a weighted score derived from four variables: the ratio of primary medical care physicians per 1,000 population, infant mortality rate, percentage of population below the federal poverty level, and percentage of the population age 65 years or over.   

“Minority health conditions” refers to all diseases, disorders, and other conditions (including mental health and substance abuse) that are unique to, more serious, or more prevalent in racial and ethnic minorities, for which the medical risk factors or types of medical interventions may be different, or research involving such populations as subjects or data on such individuals is insufficient.

“Minority health disparities research” is defined as basic, clinical, or behavioral research on minority health conditions, including research to prevent, diagnose, and treat such conditions.

FUNDS AVAILABLE

The NCMHD intends to commit approximately $9.1 million in fiscal year 2008 to fund approximately 220 HDR-LRP individuals. 

AWARD CRITERIA

Applications for the HDR-LRP are evaluated against the following components as they relate to the likelihood that the applicant will continue in a research career focused on minority health or other health disparities:

a.  Potential of the applicant to pursue a career in minority health or other health disparities research: 

b. Quality of the overall environment to prepare the applicant for a research career in health disparities:

Renewal applications are competitive and are evaluated using the same criteria as new applications plus two additional criteria – an assessment of research accomplishments and the development of the applicant as an independent investigator.

ELIGIBLE APPLICANTS

Specific eligibility criteria with regard to participation in the Loan Repayment Program for Health Disparities Research include the following:

1.      Applicants must be U.S. citizen, U.S. national, or permanent resident of the U.S.;

2.      Applicants must have a Ph.D., M.D., D.O., D.D.S., D.M.D., D.P.M., Pharm.D., Psy.D., D.C., N.D., or equivalent doctoral degree from an accredited institution;

3.      Applicants must have total qualifying educational debt equal to or in excess of 20 percent of their institutional base salary at the time of award (projected to be between July 1 and September 1, 2008).  Institutional base salary is the annual amount the organization pays for the individual’s appointment, whether the time is spent on research, teaching, patient care, or other activities.  Institutional base salary excludes any income that an applicant may earn outside of the duties of the organization.  Institutional base salary may not include or comprise any income (salary or wages) earned as a Federal employee;

4.      Applicants must conduct qualifying research supported by a domestic non-profit foundation, non-profit professional association, or other non-profit institution, or a U.S. or other government agency (Federal, State or local).  A domestic foundation, professional association, or institution is considered to be non-profit if exempt from Federal tax under the provisions of Section 501 of the Internal Revenue Code (26 U.S.C. 501);

5.      Applicants must engage in qualified minority health or other health disparities research that represents 50 percent of their level of effort and consumes an average of at least 20 hours per week during each quarterly service period.  That is, during each contract quarter, participants must conduct the required research for a minimum of 240 hours (based on a 12-week quarter) or 260 hours (based on a 13-week quarter);

6.      Part-time Federal employees working 20 hours per week or less who are (a) not conducting research as a Federal employee, and (b) whose funding source is from a domestic non-profit source as defined in Paragraph 4 of this section, are eligible to apply for loan repayment if they meet all other eligibility requirements;

7.      Applicants must agree to conduct research for which funding is not prohibited by Federal law, regulations, or DHHS/NIH policy.  Recipients who receive HDR-LRP awards must conduct their research in accordance with applicable Federal, state and local law (e.g., applicable human subject protection regulations) for the entire period of time;

8.      Applicants will not be excluded from consideration on the basis of age, race, culture, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability, or other non-merit factors; and

9.      No individual may submit more than one LRP application to the NIH in any fiscal year.  Individuals who have applied previously for the HDR-LRP, but did not receive an award, are eligible to submit a new application if they meet all of the above eligibility criteria.

10. Recipients of a Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) support from an individual postdoctoral fellowship (F32) or an institutional research training grant (T32) will be eligible for loan repayment during the second year of NRSA support if a formal extension of the NRSA service payback is granted (see http://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/pa-files/PA-06-468.html).  Concurrent repayment of LRP and NRSA service obligations is prohibited. 

The following individuals are ineligible for participation in the HDR-LRP:

1.      Persons who are not United States citizens, nationals, or permanent residents;

2.      Any individual who has a Federal judgment lien against his/her property arising from a Federal debt is barred from receiving Federal funds until the judgment is paid in full or satisfied;

3.      Any individual who owes an obligation of health professional service to the Federal Government, a State, or other entity, unless deferrals or extensions are granted for the length of their Extramural Loan Repayment Program service obligation.  The following are examples of programs with service obligations that disqualify an applicant from consideration, unless a deferral for the length of participation in the Loan Repayment Program is obtained:     

a.       Armed Forces (Army, Navy, or Air Force) Professions Scholarship Program,

b.       Exceptional Financial Need (EFN) Scholarship Program,

c.        Financial Assistance for Disadvantaged Health Professions Students (FADHPS),

d.       Indian Health Service (IHS) Scholarship Program,

e.       National Health Service Corps (NHSC) Scholarship Program, 

f.         National Institutes of Health Undergraduate Scholarship Program (UGSP),

g.       Physicians Shortage Area Scholarship Program,

h.       Primary Care Loan (PCL) Program,

i.         Public Health Service (PHS) Scholarship Program, and

j.         National Research Service Award (NRSA) Program;

4.      Individuals who are employed by the Federal Government with work schedules of more than 20 hours per week;

5.      Current recipients of NIH Intramural Research Training Awards (IRTA) or Cancer Research Training (CRTA); 

6.      Individuals conducting research for which funding is precluded by Federal law, regulations or HHS/NIH policy, or that does not comply with applicable Federal, State, and local law regarding the conduct of the research (e.g., applicable human subject protection regulations); and

7.      Individuals with ineligible loans, which include loans that have been consolidated with a loan of another individual (including spouses or children), or loans that are not educational, such as home equity loans.

RECEIPT, PEER REVIEW, AND REVIEW SCHEDULE

Upon receipt, applications for both initial and renewal awards will be reviewed for eligibility and completeness.  Incomplete or ineligible applications will not be considered.  Applications that are complete and eligible will be forwarded for peer review.

Application Receipt Date: September 1, 2007 - December 1, 2007, 8 P.M. EST
Peer Review Date:             March-May, 2008
Anticipated Award Date:   July - September, 2008

APPLICATION MATERIALS (New and Renewal Applicants)

The following information is furnished by applicants or others on behalf of applicants (forms are completed electronically at the LRP Website at www.lrp.nih.gov), and must be submitted from September 1, 2007, through December 1, 2007 at 8 P.M. EST: 

Applicants electronically transmit the following to the NIH Division of Loan Repayment: 

1.       Applicant information statement.

2.       Biosketch.

3.       Personal statement, which includes a discussion of career goals and academic objectives.

4.       Description of research activities, which describes the current or proposed research project including the specific responsibilities and role of the applicant in conducting the research.  The research supervisor or mentor will be asked to concur. 

5.       Identification of three recommenders (one of whom is identified as research supervisor or mentor).

6.       Identification of institutional contact.

7.       On-line certification.

8.       Loan information, including current account statement(s), and promissory note(s) or disclosure statement(s), obtained from lending institution(s), submitted via facsimile to 866-849-4046.

9.       If applying based on NIH support, Notice of Grant/Award (or PHS Form 2271 for Ruth L. Kirschstein NRSA training fellowships).

Research supervisors or mentors electronically transmit the following to the NIH Division of Loan Repayment:

1.       Recommendation.

2.       Biosketch.

3.       Assessment of the research activities statement submitted by the applicant.

4.       Description of the research environment, which provides detailed information about the lab where the applicant is or will be conducting research including funding, lab space, and major areas under investigation. 

5.       Training or mentoring plan, which includes a detailed discussion of the training or mentoring plan, including a discussion of the research methods and scientific techniques to be taught. 

Recommenders electronically transmit recommendation forms to the NIH Division of Loan Repayment. 

Institutional contacts electronically transmit a certification to the NIH Division of Loan Repayment that:

a.       assures the applicant will be provided the necessary time and resources to engage in the research project for two years from the date a Loan Repayment Program contract is executed;

b.       assures the applicant is or will be engaged in qualifying research for 50 percent of their work effort for an average of 20 hours per week (a total of 240 hours spent on research during a 12-week quarter, or a total of  260 hours spent on research during a 13-week quarter);

c.        certifies the sponsoring entity is a domestic non-profit institution (exempt from tax under 26 USC 501); and

d.       identifies the applicant’s institutional base salary.  

RENEWAL APPLICATIONS

Loan Repayment recipients who wish to extend their HDR loan repayment should reapply during this application cycle if the term of their current LRP contract will end in 2007 -2008 or their previous contract has ended.

LRP renewal contracts are available for one- and two-year periods and are based upon the same criteria as the initial application plus two additional criteria – an assessment of research accomplishments and development of an individual as an independent investigator.  An explanation of research accomplishments during the initial award period is required.  Progress toward development as an independent investigator is a major factor in awarding renewal of loan repayment support.  Renewal LRP awards are competitive and submission of a renewal application does not assure the award of loan repayment.

PROGRAM ADMINISTRATION AND DETAILS

Under the HDR-LRP, the NIH will repay a portion of the extant qualified educational loan debt incurred to pay for the researcher’s undergraduate, graduate, and/or health professional school educational expenses.

Failure to fulfill the terms of the LRP contract will result in termination of the LRP, or could be considered a breach of contract.  The penalty for a breach of contract is $7500 for every month of unfulfilled service or a minimum of $31,000, whichever is higher.

LRP service obligation and NRSA service payback cannot overlap and permission to defer NRSA payback must be obtained prior to receipt of LRP funding. 

The NIH will repay lenders for the extant principal, interest, and related expenses (such as the required insurance premiums on the unpaid balances of some loans) of educational loans from a U.S. government entity, academic institution, or a commercial or other chartered U.S. lending institution, such as banks, credit unions, savings and loan associations, not-for-profit organizations, insurance companies, and other financial or credit institutions which are subject to examination and supervision in their capacity as lending institutions by an agency of the United States or of the State in which the lender has its principal place of business, obtained by participants for the following:

1.       Undergraduate, graduate, and health professional school tuition expenses;

2.       Other reasonable educational expenses required by the school(s) attended, including fees, books, supplies, educational equipment and materials, and laboratory expenses; and

3.       Reasonable living expenses, including the cost of room and board, transportation and commuting costs, and other living expenses as determined by the Secretary.

Repayments are made directly to lenders, following receipt of (1) the Principal Investigator, Program Director, or Research Supervisor's verification of completion of the prior period of research, and (2) lender verification of the crediting of prior loan repayments, including the resulting account balances and current account status.  The NIH will repay loans in the following order, unless the Secretary determines that significant savings would result from a different order of priority:

1.       Loans guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:

2.       Loans guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Education:

3.       Loans made or guaranteed by a State, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, or a territory or possession of the United States;

4.       Loans made by academic institutions; and

5.       Private ("Alternative") Educational Loans:

The following loans are NOT repayable under the HDR-LRP:

1.       Loans not obtained from a U.S. or other government entity, academic institution, or a commercial or other chartered U.S. lending institution such as loans from friends, relatives, or other individuals, and non-educational loans, such as home equity loans;

2.       Loans for which contemporaneous documentation (current account statement, and promissory note or lender disclosure statement) is not available;

3.       Loans that have been consolidated with loans of other individuals, such as a spouse or child;

4.       Loans or portions of loans obtained for educational or living expenses, which exceed a reasonable level, as determined by the standard school budget for the year in which the loan was made, and are not determined by the LRP to be reasonable based on additional contemporaneous documentation provided by the applicant;

5.       Loans, financial debts, or service obligations incurred under the following programs, or other programs that incur a service obligation that converts to a loan on failure to satisfy the service obligation:

6.       Delinquent loans, loans in default, or loans not current in their payment schedule;

7.       PLUS Loans to parents (PLUS Loans disbursed to graduate and professional students on or after July 1, 2007 quality for repayment);

8.       Loans that have been paid in full; and

9.       Loans obtained after the execution of the NIH Loan Repayment Program Contract (e.g., promissory note signed after the LRP contract has been awarded) (this provision does not apply to qualifying loan consolidations).

Before the commencement of loan repayment, or during lapses in loan repayments, due to NIH administrative complications, Leave Without Pay (LWOP), or a break in service, LRP participants are wholly responsible for making payments or other arrangements that maintain loans current, such that increases in either principal or interest do not occur.  The LRP contract period will not be modified or extended as a result of Leave Without Pay (LWOP) or a break in service.  Penalties assessed participants as a result of NIH administrative complications to maintain a current payment status may not be considered for reimbursement.

LRP payments are NOT retroactive.  Loan repayment for fiscal year 2008 will commence after a loan repayment contract has been executed, which is expected to be no earlier than July 2008

REQUIRED FEDERAL CITATIONS

Awards are made pursuant to the Minority Health and Health Disparities Research and Education Act of 2000 (Public Law 106-525) that added Section 485G of the Public Health Service Act (42 USC 287c-33).  The Federal Debt Collections Procedures Act of 1990, contained in Public Law 101-647, requires that an individual that has a judgment lien against his/her property for a debt to the United States shall not be eligible to receive funds directly from the Federal government in any program, except funds to which the debtor is entitled as a beneficiary, until the judgment is paid in full or otherwise satisfied (28 U.S.C. 3201). 

The Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance number for Health Disparities Research is 93.307.


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