SCRANTON — The future just got a lot brighter and healthier for the communities that Geisinger serves. Through the innovative Abigail Geisinger Scholars Program, Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine (GCSOM) has announced that 10 doctors-in-training have committed to staying in the region to practice medicine with the unique blend of personal caring and scientific sophistication that has become synonymous with Geisinger.

Abigail Geisinger Scholars pay no tuition, in exchange for an obligation to work at Geisinger once they finish residency.

"I am proud to announce the first round of Abigail Geisinger Scholars," said Steven J. Scheinman, M.D., GCSOM president and dean and executive vice president, Geisinger. "These students are brilliant but, more importantly, they are devoted to our region and have promised to serve as Geisinger physicians in their future. Because of their commitment, they will have no medical school tuition debt. We can think of no better way to free our scholars to practice medicine in the way GCSOM is teaching them - with caring rooted in scientific evidence and centered around the patient - than by forgiving the debt that might otherwise dictate their career choices."

The announcement marks the first Abigail Geisinger Scholars Program awards distribution to qualified medical students at GCSOM. The purpose-driven program selects students through a competitive application process. Those chosen pay no tuition, in exchange for an obligation to work at Geisinger once they finish residency. Preference is given to students who expressa desire to care for the communities Geisinger serves. Selection criteria includes demonstrated financial need, academic merit, diversity and predictors of whether the applicant is likely to stay in the region Geisinger serves.According to Dr. Scheinman, no fewer than 10 awards will be made annually, with an eye toward expanding the number of recipients in the coming years.

Medical school debt can be crushing. According to the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC), average medical student debt is $192,000 and one out of five students accumulates debt of more than $300,000. GCSOM students graduate with an average debt of $256,000. Such debt can drive students' career decisions.The Abigail Geisinger ScholarsProgram debt forgiveness empowers GCSOM students to follow their passion, not their balance sheet.

Abigail Geisinger Scholars are:

•Alexa Bolock of Waverly, a member of the Class of 2021

•Max Cornell of Jermyn, a member of the Class of 2021

•Saran Kunaprayoon of Scranton, a member of the Class of 2021

•Jeremy Tokash of Scranton, a member of the Class of 2021

Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine (Geisinger Commonwealth) is a member of the Geisinger family. Geisinger Commonwealth offers a community-based model of medical education with campuses in Danville, Doylestown, Scranton, Sayre and Wilkes-Barre.

Geisinger Commonwealth offers Doctor of Medicine (MD) and Master of Biomedical Sciences (MBS) degrees. The college's innovative curriculum, focused on caring for people in the context of their lives and their community, attracts the next generation of physicians and scientists from within its 17-county region in northeastern and north central Pennsylvania, as well as from across the state and the nation. Geisinger Commonwealth is committed to non-discrimination in all employment and educational opportunities. Visit www.geisinger.edu/gcsom.