NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) — Legislation by two local lawmakers to incentivize doctors to provide care in underserved rural areas passed the Tennessee General Assembly.

The bill creates a program allowing the state Department of Health to award family medicine student loan repayment grants to qualifying doctors, who could receive up to $40,000 per year for up to five years.

Sen. Rusty Crowe of Johnson City and Rep. John Holsclaw of Elizabethton sponsored the legislation.

According to the bill, in order to qualify for the program, a doctor must have:

  • Graduated from an accredited medical school
  • Be actively enrolled in a Tennessee family medicine residency training program, matched through the existing matching process used for graduate medical education and accredited for certification by the American Board of Family Medicine;
  • Apply to the department of health for a grant, on forms provided by the department, during their family medicine residency training; and
  • Enter into a contract with the department to provide medical health services in a Tennessee health resource shortage area, as defined by the department of health, office of rural health, for at least five years following residency training in family medicine.

The Department of Health may use private donations, grants, federal and state funds to maintain the program.

The legislation currently awaits Gov. Bill Lee’s signature.