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Department of Internal Medicine

Department of Internal Medicine

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Dr. Ehrin Armstrong and the NIH LRP

Ehrin Armstrong, M.D.
Ehrin Armstrong, M.D.

Ehrin J. Armstrong, M.D.
Interventional Cardiology Fellow
Trainee, UC Davis Mentored Clinical Research Training Program
Internal Medicine: Cardiovascular Medicine

When it came to paying off his medical school loans, UC Davis Interventional Cardiology Fellow, Ehrin Armstrong, M.D., found a powerful ally: The National Institutes of Health. The NIH offers a loan repayment program for qualified researchers. Dr. Armstrong certainly is qualified. He has published more than 25 papers and book chapters since 2004. His thesis, “VEGF-NFATc1 Signaling in Heart Valve Endothelium," earned him magna cum laude honors from Harvard Medical School based on the merit of his research. "My research focuses on monocyte biology and inflammation in atherosclerosis. My previous research in vascular biology established that vascular endothelial growth factor-NFAT signaling is a specific pathway mediating heart valve development. During my clinical training in cardiology, I further refined my clinical and research interests in coronary artery disease and myocardial infarction."

"My wife, April Armstrong, who is an assistant professor in the Department of Dermatology, applied for the LRP last year and received it. She highly recommended that I apply as well," says Dr. Armstrong. "The NIH LRP application is due each year in November, and I found out that I received the award the following August. The amount of the award is based on income and total loan amount—in my case, I was awarded $35,000 a year for two years. The award is contingent upon doing at least 20 hours a week of research during those two years, which the NIH verifies every 3 months."

Ambassador for the NIH LRP, UC Davis Assistant Professor of Clinical Internal Medicine, Estella M. Geraghty, M.D.,  describes the application process, "It's very much like a grant application. The initial application is for 2 years of repayment. They pay 25% per year, or up to $35,000 annually, whichever is less. You need to describe your research plan, your approach to the research over the next two years, and the research environment/institutional resources at UC Davis. Applicants must obtain 3 letters of recommendation and a statement from a certifying official of the institution verifying your research effort, salary and their support."

"After the initial 2 years, an applicant who still has a student loan balance can apply for renewal  and may be granted 1 or 2 years of renewal at a time. When I applied, I received the initial 2 year grant, then 2 one year renewals. I've just applied for a 5th and 6th year of funding. Wish me luck!"

Estella Geraghty, M.D.
Estella Geraghty, M.D.

There are other advantages to the NIH LRP option. "Not only does the NIH pay the student's loan, but they also pay for any additional tax burden placed on the individual for having received this money. Its awesome! There is a tax reimbursement process that requires some additional effort, but its worth it," she says.

With some of the financial burden of his loan repayment now secured, Dr. Armstrong can devote himself to his research. Lately, his main focus is on vascular biology of atherosclerosis. "My current research project is examining monocyte activation and adhesion in coronary artery disease and myocardial infarction," says Armstrong, "The study is being done in conjunction with Jason Rogers, M.D., also of the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine, and Scott Simon in the Department of Biomedical Engineering. This study is truly translational. After performing a cardiac catheterization on a patient, I then perform flow cytometry on their blood later in the day."

Lest you consider Dr. Armstrong an overachiever, he isn't always pursuing research. When he's not  at work, he enjoys running. "I run as much as possible," he says. "I recently completed a 50-mile ultramarathon."

For more information on the NIH Loan Repayment Program please visit: NIH Loan Repayment Programs.