L.A. Care Health Plan marked its 25th anniversary with major announcements during a celebration on July 22 at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science.

One announcement involves another program in its Elevating the Safety Net initiative – the health plan announced eight full medical school scholarships, which are awarded each year. This is the fifth cohort of L.A. Care scholars, with four attending the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and four attending the Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science (CDU), were announced.

“L.A. Care continues to elevate our community in meaningful ways. We share a commitment to reducing barriers to high-quality healthcare,” said Steven Dubinett, MD, Interim Dean of the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. “This generous scholarship program alleviates the financial burden of medical school for our student recipients and allows them to pursue positions in historically underserved communities in Los Angeles, leading to better health outcomes for the communities we serve."

Gladys Bello, who received her degree in Anthropology at UCLA, will stay there to get her medical degree.

“This scholarship means the world to me and will reduce the financial burden of attending medical school,” says Bello. “My background as a low-income Latina and the insights I have gained working with minorities have given me a deeper understanding of how poverty presents significant barriers to a healthy lifestyle. I aim to advocate for the underserved by focusing on access to preventive care and by generally serving as a liaison for underserved communities.”

The L.A. Care Scholars who will attend the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA are:

  • Gladys Bello
  • Christopher Hernandez
  • Leslie Nunez
  • Alejandro Quiñones Baltazar

To learn more about L.A. Care’s history and accomplishments, please visit their website at lacare.org/25years.

Press release: L.A. Care Health Plan – 25 Years Strong

Media Coverage

U Magazine: "L.A. Care’s First Scholars Graduate from UCLA"

View  U Magazine (UCLA Health) Feature on Page 30-31 (PDF)

T A CEREMONY ON JUNE 3, 2022, Drs. Yesenia Calderon Leon (MD ’22), Tracy Nguyen (MD ’22) and Nguyen Pham (MD ’22), three of the inaugural recipients of L.A. Care’s Elevating the Safety Net Scholarship Program, graduated from the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. Dr. Calderon Leon also was a member of the Charles R. Drew/UCLA Medical Education Program. Financial support provided by the scholarship relieves future physicians of the enormous debt that often comes with a medical school education, enabling community- minded physicians to choose medical careers that may be more meaningful to them, such as practicing in low-income areas.

“This graduation marks a successful milestone for L.A. Care Health Plan and our Elevating the Safety Net Scholarship Program, which launched in 2018,” said John Baackes, chief executive officer at L.A. Care. “Like UCLA, we have a shared commitment to serving our local community and are proud to see our first scholarship recipients at UCLA graduate. We look forward to watching the progression of their careers working in underresourced communities.”

Now in its fifth year, the L.A. Care Elevating the Safety Net Scholarship Program provides eight students up to $350,000 each in full medical school scholarships. The scholarships support students from diverse backgrounds who have an interest in working in Los Angeles County and a dedication to serving in under-resourced communities. To date, L.A. Care Health Plan has contributed approximately $9 million to UCLA, including about $1.5 million annually for four full-ride scholarships at the university.

“L.A. Care Health Plan’s commitment to medical education at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA has demonstrated the significance of scholarship support in breaking down financial barriers that might prevent recipients from pursuing careers in under-resourced communities,” said Dr. Clarence H. Braddock III, executive vice dean and vice dean for education in the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and Maxine and Eugene Rosenfeld Chair in Medical Education. “The L.A. Care Elevating the Safety Net Scholarship Program leads the way in supporting outstanding, aspiring physicians dedicated to social justice and addressing inequity in health care delivery.”

A diverse and collaborative community, the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA has a vision to create world leaders in health and science who are encouraged to discover the basis for health and cures for disease. In 2021, it marked its 70th anniversary, making it the youngest top medical school in the nation. In 2022, it was ranked in the top 15 of Most Diverse Medical Schools in the nation by U.S. News & World Report.

Drs. Calderon Leon, Nguyen and Pham, all the first doctors in their families, will serve safety-net communities comprising uninsured, low-income and other vulnerable patients. The scholarship underscores the importance of community service and ensures that financial barriers do not deter students from pursuing the career of their dreams.

Following graduation, Dr. Pham will begin his internal medicine residency at UCLA.

“Without speaking English, my parents struggled a lot with the health system and not having a voice when we immigrated, so I became their voice for a large part of our transition to the United States,” he said. “I chose internal medicine because it represents that voice for me, the opportunity to be the primary provider and guide for my patients.”

Receiving the L.A. Care scholarship was instrumental in Dr. Pham’s growth at UCLA and served as a constant motivator and reminder of his own passion for community and education advocacy. Aspiring to empower students to pursue a career in medicine and become advocates for their own communities, Dr. Pham co-founded the student organization DREAM — Driving Resilience through Empowerment, Advocacy, Mentorship — that enables UCLA medical students to mentor high school students, and helps them explore medicine in ways that previously were not available to them.

“My experience with DREAM shaped my future goals, as with each student I was able to engage with I felt motivated and compelled to continue and improve my pipeline program to reach more disadvantaged students in the future,” said Dr. Pham. “When I personally mentored students, my L.A. Care scholarship served as a symbol of hope and proof that with resilience, medicine is within reach for immigrant students like myself.”

Dr. Nguyen was born in California to parents who emigrated from Vietnam. After graduation, Dr. Nguyen is headed to the University of California, Davis to work in emergency medicine. “I have always wanted to be able to care for all individuals who walk through the doors of the hospital,” she said. “Due to the nature of this specialty, in the truest sense I can work at the very front lines of the hospital.”

Dr. Nguyen believes the time she spent volunteering with the UCLA Mobile Clinic Project and doing clinical rotations in the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center Emergency Department helped shape and guide her decision to pursue emergency medicine. The L.A. Care Scholarship also proved pivotal in helping Dr. Nguyen pursue a career in her chosen field without the financial burden of student debt, especially with an uncertain future job market.

“The L.A. Care Elevating the Safety Net Scholarship made sure I could focus on the most important part of medicine to me, which is directly caring for the community,” she said. “I was fortunate to be able to really hone into my passion for medicine, patient-centered care and outreach opportunities. This scholarship was instrumental to my academic success and my ability to pursue a field that I am most passionate about.”

Following graduation, Dr. Calderon Leon will pursue family medicine at the Kaweah Delta Health Care District in California’s Central Valley.