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(KTXL) – For as long as Andrea Silva could remember, she wanted to save lives. 

The UC Davis graduate dedicated a decade of her life preparing for a career in medicine, and in 2018, she traded in her cap and gown for a white coat.

“None of us are doing this for the money. None of us at all. We love what we do. It’s such a fabulous job and I’m so lucky to have it,” Silva said.

Silva is now in her last year of residency in Stanislaus County and while she’s excited for her future in health care, she worries about repaying the half-million dollars in loans it took to get there.

“It really is a burden to have such high loans,” Silva explained. “A lot of my residents talk about moving outside the state in order to get better loan forgiveness programs and it’s really disheartening.”

This week Rep. Josh Harder, D-Modesto, introduced a bill to help bring relief to Silva and other physicians in the making.

If passed, the legislation would expand the federal loan forgiveness program to aspiring doctors in California. 

Right now students in every state except California and Texas are eligible.

“About a year and a half ago, we graduated 12 new physicians across Stanislaus County in our family residency program. Of those 12 new physicians, 1 of them stuck around,” Harder said.

Harder says the pandemic has highlighted a doctor shortage in California, especially in underserved communities and this bill gives doctors a reason to practice medicine up and down the state.

“COVID showed the cracks in our health care system here in the Valley,” Harder explained. “Those cracks existed before. We knew two years ago that we didn’t have enough nurses or enough doctors but now that we’ve seen all this stress this pandemic has put on our health care facilities across the Valley, we need this bill more than ever.”

Silva hopes to stay in the Central Valley once she becomes a physician so long as her academic investment doesn’t hold her back from building a life outside the hospital. 

“I’ve never owned a home. I’ve always wanted to have a home. I’d be able to take care of my mom better who has struggled for years,” Silva said. “It would just be nice to have that security and to know I’m not stepping into my first real job in a big hole that you got to dig yourself out of.”

The California Medical Association predicts the bill could bring as many as 10,000 new doctors to California in the next ten years.