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Medical Expense Assistance Program

Since 2006, the Duke University Graduate School has offered financial assistance to graduate students who incur medical expenses that are not eligible for reimbursement and that create a significant financial hardship.

Assistance takes the form of a grant to at least partially reimburse the expenses not covered by insurance. Therefore, you must first submit insurance claims and determine your out-of-pocket expenses before you can apply for reimbursement through the medical expense assistance program.


  • You must be a full-time Ph.D. student at the Duke University Graduate School currently enrolled in years 1-6.
  • You must be enrolled in the Duke Student Medical Insurance Plan.
  • The reimbursement ends automatically on graduation, when university affiliation ends, or when the student drops below full-time enrollment. Note: Registration for continuation is considered full-time enrollment.

Limits and Conditions

  • The program gives grants up to $5,000. Requests for exceptions will be considered by the dean of The Graduate School.
  • The grants are intended to help cover out-of-pocket medical expenses, not insurance premiums.
  • The grants are intended to help cover medical expenses incurred by the student, not by their dependents or significant others.

To Apply for Medical Expense Assistance

  • Schedule an appointment with Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina (800-579-8022) to review your insurance statements and make sure your bills are correct.
  • Complete the application form (PDF).
  • Include the following with your application:
    • A one-page personal statement of need explaining the nature of your illness, how much you are required to pay, why these costs present a hardship for you, and any other pertinent special circumstances.
    • A federal income tax statement for the most recent tax year (if you are an international student who will not pay taxes, please contact us about what documents we might need in place of the tax statement).
    • A financial aid letter for the current academic year (can be a letter from a department official, such as the director of graduate study, detailing stipend and fellowship support).
    • Copies of insurance statements and copies of the original receipts for medical costs not covered by the Duke Student Medical Insurance Plan to document your out-of-pocket expenses.
    • If your receipts span several weeks or treatments, please include an itemized spreadsheet summarizing your costs so we can more easily understand your situation.

Make sure that all financial information includes your spouse/partner, if applicable.

Email the application material to Sondra Ponzi ( or mail them to:

Graduate Student Affairs
Attn: Medical Expense Assistance Program
2127 Campus Drive
Box 90070
Durham, NC 27708


Jacqueline Looney, senior associate dean for graduate programs, will review all requests confidentially. You will be notified of the decision in writing.

If you have any questions, please contact Sondra Ponzi ( or 919-681-1551) at the Graduate Student Affairs Office.