Recruitment & Retention Programs

Connecting Providers to Communities

About the Program

South Carolina AHEC administers the state’s financial incentive programs for clinicians who practice in rural and underserved communities. South Carolina AHEC Recruitment and Retention Programs provide financial incentives to healthcare professionals who practice in rural and underserved areas to improve the distribution of providers statewide. We have been committed to the recruitment and retention of healthcare professionals in the state through initiatives that have been ongoing and evolving for more than 40 years.

Approximately 21% of the state’s population lives in rural areas, but only 12% of the state’s dentists, 13% of nurse practitioners, 9% of physicians, and 11% of physician assistants practice in these areas. Incentive programs improve recruitment and retention in rural areas, helping address the maldistribution of healthcare providers in South Carolina.

Recruitment & Retention Programs Last Year

32
New Rural Incentive Grant Recipients funded in FY20 to practice in rural and underserved areas
77
Total providers active in the program in fiscal year 2020
5
Community dentists and 3 MUSC dental faculty funded through Rural Dentist Loan Repayment Program

Recruitment & Retention Programs

90 recipients for the Incentive Grant Program FY17-20: 47 physicians and 43 advanced practice providers, funded in 35 of South Carolina's 46 counties.

The Rural Physician Program was initiated by the South Carolina Legislature in 1989 to address the undersupply of clinicians in rural and underserved South Carolina communities. The program provides incentive grants for primary care physicians and advanced practice professionals who commit to practice in a rural or underserved area of South Carolina for a period of four years. To date, the program has funded over 500 primary care providers in rural communities throughout South Carolina. Statistics have shown that retention rates are greatly enhanced if these professionals remain in the site for four or more years. Since 1990, 89% of physicians who were awarded incentive grants are actively practicing in South Carolina.

Program Details & Eligibility

For more information about the incentives, provider eligibility and the contractual process, please review the Program At-A-Glance handout and read the Program Information document.

Application Process

Required Documentation:

*Please note: you must have a practice site/employment location secured to be eligible for this program. For resources for identifying rural employment opportunities in South Carolina, please visit the South Carolina Office of Rural Health’s website.

Submit Application

Applications are submitted online via our Submittable portal. Applicants will create an account and can save and come back to edit their in-progress applications prior to submission. All supporting documents are uploaded through the application portal. The application must be fully complete and submitted by the deadline to be considered. Please note: you must have a practice site/employment location secured to be eligible for this program.

Applicants will receive confirmation after submitting their application and can view application status at any time in their Submittable account.

The application cycle is now open. All applications must be submitted through the online portal by March 15, 2021 at 11:59pm.

Apply for Incentive Grant

Program Administration

This program is administered by South Carolina AHEC and managed by the Rural Physician Board, the members of which are defined in the South Carolina Code of Laws. This board meets periodically to vote on applicants and to discuss other items of business. The Rural Physician Board is composed of representatives from the South Carolina Primary Health Care Association, the South Carolina Medical Association, the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC), the South Carolina Hospital Association, the South Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, the USC School of Medicine, an appointee of the South Carolina House of Representatives Medical, Military, Public and Municipal Affairs Committee, an appointee of the South Carolina Senate Medical Affairs Committee, and three at-large members with two representing nursing and one representing allied health sciences.

In July of 2005, the Rural Dentist Program was established by the South Carolina Legislature. The funds for this program are appropriated to the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) and are administered by the South Carolina Area Health Education Consortium. The program assists in the repayment for educational loans of dentists who practice in a Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA) or serve as full-time faculty at the MUSC College of Dental Medicine. The expectation is that during their commitment period these dentists will establish viable community practices or academic careers at the College of Dental Medicine, become involved in their respective communities and remain after the funding period is over. Priority for this program is given to those demonstrating need and expressing intent to remain in an underserved area or in an area of critical need at the MUSC College of Dental Medicine.

Eligibility

To qualify for this program, loans must be made with a recognized financial institution. To be eligible for the Dental Loan Repayment program, all applicants must have no outstanding service obligation for health professional service to the Federal Government (e.g., an active military obligation or National Health Service Corp), a State (e.g. State Loan Repayment Program or Scholarship Program obligation) or other entity, unless the obligation would be completed prior to receipt of the Dental Loan Repayment Award.

Participants are expected to be a Medicaid provider and treat at least 100 unduplicated Medicaid patients. Applications from providers currently in practice must include an individual Medicaid provider number in order to be considered. This stipulation does not apply to students who have not yet completed their training. For students who will establish practice upon completion of training, access the South Carolina Department of Health and Human Services' (DHHS) website to become a Medicaid provider. The South Carolina Dental Association (SCDA) can assist with obtaining a Medicaid provider number.

Scoring Criteria

The following applicant scoring criteria are for informational purposes only:

  • South Carolina Resident - 1 point
  • MUSC Dental School - 2 points
  • Dental Residency Training - 1 point
  • HPSA Type: Geographic HPSA - 3 points, Low-Income HPSA - 1 point
  • Rural Practice - 3 points
  • Practice Type: General Practice - 1 point, Pediatric Dentistry - 2 points
  • Under-Represented Minority (African-American, Native American, Hispanic) - 2 points
  • Previous Applicant - 1 point
  • Community Endorsement - 0-3 points (This can be documented by letters of support from community leaders that address the need for dental services in the area.)
  • Practice Investment - 0-5 points (This can be documented by community or practice financial investment such as provision of office space, purchase of equipment, etc.)
  • Overall Board Evaluation - 0-5 points

Program Details & Eligibility

For more information about the loan repayment program, provider eligibility and the contractual process, please review the Program At-A-Glance handout and read the Program Information document.

Application Process

Required Documentation:

  • Proof of U.S. citizenship, U.S. National, or Lawful Permanent Resident status (U.S. birth certificate issued by a city, county or state agency of the United States, identification page of an unexpired U.S. passport, or a Certificate of Citizenship, a Naturalization Certificate, or a Green Card)
  • A personal statement (1 page maximum)
  • Curriculum vitae including membership organizations
  • Minimum of three current signed community letters of support from lay members (not dentists) of the community*
  • Copies of all educational loan documents
  • Documentation of practice investment from the dentist or other organization or entities*
  • 1040 Form from your most recent tax return with your social security number redacted
  • Copy of the SLED State Criminal Records Check. Available at https://catch.sled.sc.gov/. (There is a minimal charge for this check.)*

*Not required for MUSC Dental Faculty Applicants

Submit Application

Applications are submitted online via our Submittable portal. Applicants will create an account and can save and come back to edit their in-progress applications prior to submission. All supporting documents are uploaded through the application portal. Applicants will receive confirmation after submitting their application and can view application status at any time in their Submittable account.

The application cycle is now open. All applications must be submitted through the online portal by February 15, 2021 at 11:59pm.

Apply for Loan Repayment Program

Using funds from the Marlboro County General Hospital Foundation, South Carolina AHEC will provide loan repayment to medical practitioners (physicians, advanced clinical practitioners and registered nurses) who practice in Marlboro County, South Carolina.

The purpose of the payments will be to attract medical practitioners to Marlboro County. Amounts will be determined by fund availability and will be set by South Carolina AHEC from time to time. The present policy is that physicians will be paid up to $25,000 for each year of service in Marlboro County, advanced clinical practitioners up to $15,000 per year and registered nurses up to $10,000. Contracts will be for a four-year period. Payments will be made annually the 13th month following 12 months of continuous full-time employment. See application packet for eligibility details.

Download the Application (PDF)
Headshot of an Incentive Grant recipient: Holly M., DO

Connecting Providers to Communities

"The Rural Incentive Grant Program has been an incredible blessing for me and my career as a family medicine physician. After the great accomplishment of graduating from residency I was still faced with an extensive amount of debt that accumulated from attending a private medical school. I knew that I wanted to stay and practice locally, near my residency, but unfortunately student loan repayment was not an option in the position I desperately wanted. Thanks to the Rural Physician Incentive Grant Program, I felt confident in accepting a position in an underserved area of South Carolina. I knew that the money from the grant would present an excellent way for me to continue paying off my medical school debt and still serve the community by filling the role of a much needed primary care physician. Without this grant, I may have had to pursue my career elsewhere, however, now I am blessed to be able to continue to do what I love, full scope family medicine."

- Holly M. DO; Walhalla, SC