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Charles R. Drew University Medical Students Receive Full Scholarships Worth Up to $1.3 Million For Third Year in a Row


LOS ANGELES, Calif. (June 23, 2020) – For the third year in a row, four incoming students in the College of Medicine's Class of 2024 were honored and granted full medical scholarships totaling over $1.3 million during L.A. Care's weeklong “Elevating The Safety Net” virtual celebration during the week of July 20. Ope Akerele, Kendra Arriaga Castellanos, Bryce Bentley and Jahmil Lacey (pictured below) received scholarships worth up to $350,000 each and were selected based on financial need as well as their expressed desire to serve vulnerable populations.

"We are extremely grateful to L.A. Care Health Plan and its Board of Directors for once again including CDU and its students in this tremendous program that is helping to bring more physicians into under-resourced communities," said CDU President/CEO David M. Carlisle, MD, PhD.

As part of the weeklong event, L.A. Care also hosted an Instagram Live interview session with scholarship winners on Wednesday, July 22, including CDU's Bryce Bentley. He spoke of his experiences growing up in South Los Angeles, and the significance of being able to pursue his medical career with the help of L.A. Care. “It's always been a dream of mine to be able to go to medical school and not have to worry about acquiring debt,” he said.

Additional Scholar RemarksHector Balcazar, PhD

  • “This scholarship means the world to my family. I am so grateful to be recognized for my commitment to underserved communities and my desire to continue serving in my own community through medicine. I cannot thank L.A. Care enough for their generosity and investment in my community and my dreams.”- Ope Akerele
  • "This award is not only an investment in me, but an investment in the community. As a daughter of immigrants, this award is truly the epitome of our American Dream – thank you for supporting my vision, and providing a path in which I can become a physician who works towards finding solutions for the existing health disparities in our communities.” - Kendra Arriaga-Castellanos
  • "For people from my community of South L.A., our health care system requires people like myself to be in places where we can help heal people and help transform systems, and so I’m really grateful to L.A. Care for this scholarship.” - Jahmil Lacey

L.A. Care Health Plan's "Elevating the Safety Net" initiative was launched in 2018 to recruit highly qualified primary physicians into the Los Angeles County "safety net," which seeks to offer access to care regardless of an individual’s ability to pay. The scholarship program, which also granted awards to four UCLA students, serves as a pipeline into the safety net.

“I cannot overstate the importance of these scholarships to our students and to CDU’s ability to fulfill its mission, which is aligned with that of L.A. Care,” said COM Dean Dr. Deborah Prothrow-Stith. “Graduating from medical school without debt is a gift that will keep on giving throughout the lives of the recipients, their families and the communities they will serve. With these leading-edge scholarships, L.A. Care has helped us stay current with the trends toward making medical school more accessible to outstanding students. "

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CDU is a private, non-profit student centered minority-serving medical and health sciences University that is committed to cultivating diverse health professional leaders who are dedicated to social justice and health equity for underserved populations through outstanding education, research, clinical service, and community engagement.

Located in the Watts-Willowbrook area of South Los Angeles, CDU has graduated, since its inception, more than 575 physicians, 1,200 physician assistants and over a thousand other health professionals, as well as training over 2,700 physician specialists through its sponsored residency programs. Its School of Nursing has graduated over 1000 nursing professionals, including over 600 family nurse practitioners.  CDU is a leader in health disparities research with a focus on education, training, treatment and care in cancer, diabetes, cardiometabolic and HIV/AIDS.




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