JA Victory: Congress OKs Funding to Repay Student Loans of Specialty Doctors

The decision opens the door to future funding of more pediatric rheumatologists. 

Washington, D.C., April 15, 2022 – In an encouraging move toward addressing the nation’s major shortage of pediatric rheumatologists and other pediatric subspecialties, Congress has approved $5 million in funding for the Pediatric Subspecialty Loan Repayment Program (PSLRP) in the final FY2022 congressional funding bill. This is the first time the program will be funded since Congress first authorized the program in 2010.

Finding a doctor specifically trained to treat juvenile arthritis is a challenge for families, with seven states having zero pediatric rheumatologists. Currently, only 25% of children with juvenile arthritis have access to a pediatric rheumatologist, and they must travel an average of 57 miles to reach them.

Once the Pediatric Subspecialty Loan Repayment Program is implemented, pediatric subspecialists (like pediatric rheumatologists) will be eligible to receive up to $35,000 per year in tuition loan repayment in exchange for practicing in a rural or underserved area. It is estimated that the approved $5 million would fund about 50 initial two-year awards. While $5 million is an important first step, The Arthritis Foundation will continue to focus on growing the program’s funding to meet the need more adequately.

“Juvenile arthritis patients and their families face an enormous challenge in finding and maintaining access to pediatric rheumatology specialists. While we celebrate this milestone initial round of funding, the arthritis community’s passionate army of advocacy volunteers has already turned its attention to the hard work of increasing the funding in future years,” says Anna Hyde, vice president of advocacy and access, Arthritis Foundation.  

The Arthritis Foundation will work with the pediatric subspecialty community to seek $30 million for the program next fiscal year. Visit to join the Arthritis Foundation's grassroots advocacy network fighting to improve the lives of people living with arthritis.

Parents and guardians of children with juvenile arthritis who are seeking support and information about local resources are encouraged to contact the Arthritis Foundation’s Helpline by calling 1-800-283-7800 or emailing [email protected]. Those who wish to share their health care experiences are invited to participate in JA INSIGHTS, the Foundation’s online juvenile arthritis patient study for parents and caregivers of children age 5 to 17.

Update: On December 22, 2022, the U.S. Senate passed an omnibus funding bill. Signed into law on December 29, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023, includes $10 million for the Pediatric Subspecialty Loan Repayment Program. The Arthritis Foundation applauds this funding and will continue to advocate for future increases to ensure that families in rural and underserved areas can access pediatric rheumatology specialists.

About the Arthritis Foundation 

The Arthritis Foundation is fighting for all people who live with arthritis. As a Champion of Yes, it's the Arthritis Foundation's mission to turn the obstacles arthritis causes into opportunities. The Arthritis Foundation champions life-changing solutions and medical advancements, and it also provides ways for people to connect, break down barriers in health care and join the fight for a cure — uniting hearts, minds and resources to change the future of arthritis. To join the fight to cure arthritis, visit