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National Health Services Corps

About NHSC

America's Health Care Hereos

35 Years of Excellence: Access Today for Healthier Communities Tomorrow

Join us in a yearlong observance of the National Health Service Corps’ legacy and commitment to improving the health of our nation.  We look forward to the future as we continue our commitment to providing access today for healthier communities tomorrow.

N H S C  Logo, 35 Years of Excellence, Access Today for Healthier Communities Tomorrow


NHSC was created due to the health care crises that emerged in the U.S. in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Physicians who served rural communities began to retire which left many areas of the country without health care services. Several factors contributed to the crises including the increasing specialized nature of medical practices and rapid technological advances. Smaller proportions of medical students entered family medicine. Rural areas and inner-city neighborhoods competed unsuccessfully with affluent medical practices that offered higher compensation, more interaction with other professionals, and job opportunities for spouses. Rural communities lacked resources to provide the technologically sophisticated facilities that many physicians desired. Rural states appealed to Congress for help thus establishing what is now known as the National Health Service Corps.

NHSC milestones:


Emergency Health Personnel Act was signed into law as Public Law 91-623. These were Federal employees, US Public Health Service Commissioned Corps Officers or civil servants assigned to underserved areas to practice.

1972— The first 20 commissioned officers were assigned, including 14 physicians, four dentists and two nurses. NHSC had placed 181 clinicians in over 100 communities. The Emergency Health Personnel Act Amendments expanded the pool of clinicians available for service by offering scholarships to dentists, allopathic and osteopathic physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants and certified nurse midwives.
1979— Field strength had increased from the initial 181 clinicians to 1,826. Budget went from 11.3 million in 1972 to 138 million in 1979.


  • Between 1978 and 1981 – close to 6,700 scholarships were awarded.
  • Between 1981 and 1988 – only 653 scholarships were awarded due to predictions of a physician surplus by 1990. This persuaded Congress to scale back the program.
1982— NHSC began forming partnerships with States to assist in the placement, monitoring and evaluation of NHSC practices.
1987— Loan Repayment program was implemented.
1988— Seven loan repayment contracts awarded
1989— Field strength at 1,491 and budget reduced to $47.8 million.
1994— NHSC regains its momentum.  Budget is $124 million.  Awarded 429 new scholarship and 536 new loan repayment contracts.
1999— Field strength at 2,526 and budget at $112.4 million.
2000— 52% of NHSC clinicians were still serving the underserved in some capacity up to 15 years after completion of the service commitment (Mathmatica Study).
2004— Field strength at 3,943.  Budget at $169.9 million.
2005— NHSC awarded a record 1,223 loan repayment contracts succeeding in rapidly placing more clincians into service.

  • There have been over 27,000 dedicated primary care clinicians placed in Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs).
  • Currently over 4,600 NHSC clinicians serve in rural and urban communities nationwide, serving 5 million people.
  • 53 million people still lack access to quality health care in the United States.
  • There are over 650 NHSC Ambassadors.  The NHSC Ambassador Program is a membership organization comprised of a dedicated group of volunteers on campuses and in communities across the Nation.  “Ambassadors,” work in partnership with the NHSC to improve the health of the Nation’s underserved.  
  • NHSC's retention rates have averaged 76% to 80%

The NHSC and their partners work in concert with our NHSC Scholars, Loan Repayors, and communities to not only provide increased access to primary health care but to also provide quality, culturally competent care to those most in need. It is a tribute to open communications, willingness, and a sense of working toward our common goals that have helped greatly in our success. As we look forward it is important to recognize the actions that will help us to sustain and improve upon what we have already accomplished. We have created much more than direct patient health care through community education and outreach programs, as well as the development of health care systems. The impact of NHSC programs will continue to be seen in future generations of health care professionals committed to serving where they are needed the most.

Former Director’s and Acting Director’s of the NHSC:

1972 - 1973 H. McDonald Rimple, M.D.
1973 Martin P. Wasserman, M.D.
1973 - 1975 Edward D. Martin, M.D.
1975 - 1976 Howard Hilton
1976 - 1977 George Tolbert, M.D. (Deceased)
1977 - 1978 Fitzhugh Mullan, M.D.
1978 - 1983 Billy M. Sandlin
1983 - 1987 Kenneth P. Moritsugu, M.D.
1987 Jeffrey Human, Acting
1987 - 1989 Audrey F. Manley, M.D.
1989 - 1990 John Hisle, Acting
1990 - 2005 Donald L. Weaver, M.D.
2005 - 2006 Jennifer Burks, Acting
2006 - Richard J. Smith, III

Success Stories


NHSC Scholar Helps Patients Manage Diabetes

Dana Green, a certified physician assistant (PA-C) and National Health Service Corps (NHSC) Scholar, arrived in the remote rural community of Van Buren, Maine, and launched a personal crusade to educate underserved populations and their caregivers about diabetes. Four years and many success stories later, Green is now recognized nationally and locally as a leading researcher on the standards of diabetes care.

Read more

Health Resources and Services Administration U.S. Department of Health and Human Services