Landis Kwong, D.M.D.
Despite having some financial help from her family, Dr. Kwong still graduated from Oregon Health & Science University School of Dentistry in 2020 with $178,000 in student loans.
“That’s about half of the national average,” she said. “So I’m really fortunate, which is crazy to think about.”
But before she began dental school, Dr. Kwong said she already knew she wanted to go into public health.
“A big passion of mine is to provide care to underserved Asian and Asian-American communities,” she said. “I figure, I might as well take advantage of federal programs that help with student loans.”
Dr. Kwong learned, from another dental student, about the National Health Service Corps, specifically NHSC Students to Service Loan Repayment Program. The idea: if Dr. Kwong commits three years in working in a federally qualified health center, NHSC will provide $120,000 towards her student loans, awarded over four years.
Dr. Kwong applied for the program in her fourth year of dental school. Today, she practices in a community clinic in Longview, Washington, treating lower income patients who don’t have insurance or are on Medicaid. She started in 2021 and will practice in community clinics until 2024.
Dr. Kwong said she would encourage others, including those who may not have long term plans to remain in public health, to consider NHSC’s various loan repayment options. She added that if a clinic isn’t a good fit, dentists aren’t locked in. They can find another qualified location anywhere in the country to continue their commitment in the program.
“Three years isn’t very long, considering how long many of us plan on practicing dentistry,” she said. “For new dentists, serving in community clinics can also give you new perspectives and valuable experiences.”