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Rugby JDA, state help local doctor mark two years at Johnson Clinic

By Sue Sitter - | Aug 14, 2021

Submitted Photo Rugby JDA board members help Dr. Josalynne Hoff-Rue, right, mark her second anniversary at the Heart of America Johnson Clinic. From left are JDA Executive Director Karl Frigaard, JDA Board President Blair Brattvet, Heart of America Medical Center CEO Erik Christenson and Hoff-Rue.

When Dr. Josalynne Hoff-Rue completed two years with Heart of America Medical Center and Johnson Clinic in August, the Rugby Job Development Authority helped her celebrate her anniversary.

The Rugby JDA had teamed up with the North Dakota Department of Health to bring Hoff-Rue to the community.

Hoff-Rue said she’s been receiving a yearly stipend from the JDA and state as part of a program to pay off the student loans she accumulated in medical school at the University of North Dakota. Hoff-Rue’s stipend payments will continue for five years.

“Most of those loan repayment programs have to have a community match,” Hoff-Rue explained.

Hoff-Rue said the Rugby JDA was “my community match so I could get the remainder of my loans paid by the state repayment program. So, they worked with the state to match that.”

Hoff-Rue said UND also assists her to pay off her student loans.

Hoff-Rue participates in the North Dakota Department of Health’s Healthcare Professional Student Loan Repayment Program. Under the program, which involves a match from a rural community in need of medical professionals, up to $150,000 can be used to pay off a physician’s medical school debt.

In order to be eligible for the loan repayment help, new physicians must apply to work “in an area that is statistically underserved and “located at least 20 miles outside the boundary of a city with more than 40,000 residents.”

Rugby fit those criteria, and the JDA signed a memorandum of understanding with the state to participate in the program.

According to Heart of America Medical Center’s CEO Erik Christenson, the Rugby JDA has partnered with the state in the program to bring doctors to the hospital and clinic “at least since before 2017.”

The Rugby JDA’s participation in the program “was a big influence in my decision to come here because I had to have something to match (the state repayment program), otherwise, I didn’t get the state repayment,” Hoff-Rue said.

“I had to have (the match), otherwise, I wouldn’t have come to Rugby,” she added.

“UND does a good job of trying to keep our costs down,” Hoff Rue said of her experience as a medical student. “I couldn’t tell you the specific number, but I think between $200,000 and $300,000 is what an average med student comes out with in debt.”

“You can’t work while you’re in med school because it’s an 80-hour-a-week job in itself to study,” Hoff-Rue said. “So, then you have to pay your tuition and buy all your books and supplies and also pay your rent and get groceries, so you live entirely off of those loans for four years.”

“Then, when you’re a resident, you get enough money to pay off those loans, but it’s still hard to pay those loan payments because, as you would assume, they’re pretty high when you’re that much in debt,” Hoff-Rue added.

“I think it’s a hugely important thing for our small community to provide because I wouldn’t be here if we didn’t have it,” Hoff-Rue said of the program. “Most loan repayment programs have to have a matching dollar amount. So, it was a big deal for me when I agreed to do that.”

Christenson said the program was “absolutely (helpful to the hospital).”

“When we bring in providers, because there’s a match involved for student loan repayment, it’s absolutely beneficial because these kids come out with very hefty loans,” Christenson noted.

“You get physicians or dentists, they’re going to come out of school with pretty sizeable loans,” Christenson added.

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