In Giddings, a Central Texas town of about 5,000 residents, a hometown hero sits just a block off the main drag.
Dr. Crystal Banks began practicing medicine in the small town in 2011. The opportunity to work in a small town excited Banks, but the burden of medical school loans and a lower expected wage as a rural doctor dampened that excitement.
While looking for help, Banks cam across the physician education loan repayment program.
"As soon as I finished my residency, I looked into applying for it and I was told we lost funds, the state of Texas has lost funding for it for this year," Banks said.
Three tries later and Banks will now have about 85 percent of her loans paid off because she has committed to practicing in Giddings for at least four years.
Lawmakers approved about $34 million for the program for the 2014-2015 biennium—up from only about $6 million in the current budget.
Until now, the lack of funding meant no new applications were accepted.
"Every time it opens, it's a rush to get in—up to $160,000 for four years," Chuck Norris, board chair of the Texas Organization of Rural and Community Hospitals, said.
Norris says attracting young, family practice doctors to rural areas has been tough, especially ones that will take Medicaid and CHIP patients.
This program requires those specifications and Norris says he was happy to see the funding increased.
"That we're gradually improving the ability to give health to the rural areas," Norris said.
While Dr. Banks says attracting her to a small town wasn't the tough part, the money will make it easier for her to stay.