L.A. Care Announces its Eight 2021 Elevating the Safety Net Scholars

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Monday, July 19, 2021

Students from Underrepresented Communities Will Receive Full Medical School Scholarships

LOS ANGELES – Even before COVID-19, experts were projecting a shortage of as many as 124,000 physicians in the United States by 2034. The pandemic has put additional strain on the workforce, with as many as 12 percent of physicians saying they are considering leaving medicine. L.A. Care Health Plan, the nation’s largest publicly operated health plan, has long recognized the need to address the shortage, and today is proud to announce its
fourth group of Elevating the Safety Net Scholarship awardees.

Each of our 2021 L.A. Care Scholars has expressed a desire to work in underserved communities, and the scholarships mean they won’t be saddled with hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt that could pull them to a practice outside the safety net,” said John Baackes, L.A. Care CEO. “All eight scholars are from communities of color, which we know will produce optimal health outcomes as they work in communities like their own, and will ultimately, advance our commitment to health equity for all.

In 2018, L.A. Care launched Elevating the Safety Net, a five-year, $155 million initiative to recruit highly qualified primary care physicians into the Los Angeles County safety net. Safety net providers offer access to care regardless of a patient’s ability to pay, and many work with communities of color. The scholarship program serves as a pipeline into the safety net.

Four of the 2021 L.A. Care Elevating the Safety Net Scholars will attend the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

 “UCLA and L.A. Care are both dedicated to reducing health inequities and elevating communities in need," said Kelsey C. Martin, MD, PhD, dean of the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. "Our students who receive the L.A. Care scholarships will be able to focus on the medical disciplines that excite them most, leading to greater access to health care for historically underserved communities in Los Angeles."

­­­­­Ehizele Robertson, who has a BA in English from UC Berkeley and a Masters in Biotechnology from Johns Hopkins University, is one of the UCLA scholars.

Receiving this scholarship is a life changing experience, not just for me, but for everyone that I will touch in my medical career. I am just one scholar, but you are changing lives and communities with these scholarships,” Said Robertson. “I am just so grateful that L.A. Care is helping me reach my dream of becoming a leader in health care without having a financial  burden.”

The L.A. Care Scholars who will attend UCLA are:

  • Efren Aguilar – BS in Molecular Cell Biology and Physiology from Cal State Long Beach
  • Geena Conde – BS in Neuroscience from UCLA
  • Saitiel Sandoval Gonzalez – BS in Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology from UCLA
  • Jermaine (Ehizele) Robertson –BA in English from UC Berkeley; Masters in Biotechnology from Johns Hopkins University

Four of the L.A. Care Scholars will attend the Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science.

"As an institution dedicated to eradicating inequities and expanding access to medical education, CDU works diligently to provide the resources necessary to ensure uninterrupted access to a high-quality health professions education for our students," said Deborah Prothrow-Stith, Dean and Professor of Medicine for the College of Medicine. "Medical school is expensive, and although pursuing higher education has long been viewed as an equalizer, not everyone can afford to take on the debt necessary to do so. L.A. Care Health Plan's continued support of CDU's College of Medicine through its Elevating the Safety Net initiative plays a significant role in allowing us to continue training a diverse, knowledgeable and compassionate health care workforce which accurately reflects the populations they are serving." 

Larissa  Nicolas, who majored in biology at UCLA, is one of the CDU scholars.

Being a first generation college student and having the opportunity to pursue a career in medicine without having to worry about debt is a blessing,” said Nicolas. “Seeing how many communities of color were disproportionately affected by COVID-19, not only confirmed that I made the right choice to pursue medicine, but also confirmed that I want to continue to work with underserved populations. I am hoping that I can work to expand health care access to undocumented residents and other under-resourced communities.”

The scholars who will attend Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science are:

  • Alexis Aleman – BS in Biology from Cal State Northridge
  • Marilyn Bravo – BS in Neuroscience from Brown University
  • Matthew Carter – BS in Biology from Stanford University
  • Larissa Nicolas – BS in Biology from UCLA

Today, L.A. Care is kicking off a weeklong social media campaign that will introduce the 2021 Scholars and share their accomplishments to date. The health plan offers congratulations to the fourth group of L.A. Care Scholars and wishes them the best of luck in their first year of med school.

About Elevating the Safety Net

In addition to the 32 medical scholarships that have been awarded since the launch of Elevating the Safety Net, the initiative includes a program to recruit physicians into L.A. County safety net clinics and practices. So far, 124 physicians have been hired. A loan repayment program in the initiative has awarded 101 grant to new recruits working in that safety net. The initiative’s residency support program has funded 38 new residency positions in L.A. County. Like the scholars, these residents will serve as a pipeline into the safety net.


About L.A. Care Health Plan

L.A. Care Health Plan serves more than 2.4 million members in Los Angeles County, making it the largest publicly operated health plan in the country. L.A. Care offers four health coverage plans including Medi-Cal, L.A. Care Covered™, L.A. Care Cal MediConnect Plan and the PASC-SEIU Homecare Workers Health Care Plan, all dedicated to being accountable and responsive to members. As a public entity, L.A. Care’s mission is to provide access to quality health care for L.A. County's low-income communities, and to support the safety net required to achieve that purpose. L.A. Care prioritizes quality, access and inclusion, elevating health care for all of L.A. County. For more information, follow us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram.


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Penny Griego Media Relations Specialist
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