As part of its $155 million commitment to attract physicians to underserved areas, L.A. Care Health Plan announced this week it is giving $5 million to help fund the creation of a South L.A. medical school program focused on serving under-resourced communities.
The donation will support the Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science, (CDU) an historically Black private medical school in Willowbrook that trains 28 medical students each year through a partnership with UCLA which was formed following the 1965 Watts Riots.
The new medical program, which will begin in 2023, will train an additional 60 students per year. According to L.A. Care Health Plan, the program is expected to increase the number of Black medical graduates per year in California by about 30 percent starting in 2027, when the program’s first 60 students graduate. The program is also expected to increase the number of Latino medical students by about 20 percent.
“CDU remains the only health professions institution in a service planning area with 1.35 million residents. The forthcoming medical school at CDU is a clear marker of progression in our institution’s 55-year journey, and will serve as a significant step towards improving health outcomes for the residents of South Los Angeles,” said university President and CEO David M. Carlisle.
“We are grateful for the support from L.A. Care as we solidify the legacy of CDU, an institution that stands as a beacon of hope in one of the most densely populated and under-resourced urban areas in the nation,” he said.
The program will recruit students who are interested in alleviating health care disparities and understanding under-resourced communities’ needs. Students will be encouraged to practice medicine in the South Los Angeles area.
“We launched Elevating the Safety Net in 2018 to help address a severe physician shortage and the resulting health disparities in the underserved communities that we serve,” L.A. Care CEO John Baackes said of the health plan’s $155 million commitment.
“COVID-19 put a spotlight on the disparities, and illustrated the critical need for doctors who understand these communities,” he said. “We hope the CDU students will recognize how much they are truly needed and will elect to serve in an under-resourced community when their medical training is complete.”
L.A. Care’s $5 million commitment to CDU will be used to:
— Develop a community health pre-matriculation training experience focused on professionalism and wellness activities for medical students;
— Enhance the current simulation center to offer medical training activities for students and faculty;
— Establish a service learning program for students to offer certifications as emergency medical technicians, community health workers and patient navigators; and
— Establish a center for faculty development to focus on recruitment, retention and development of faculty.
L.A. Care previously partnered with CDU for the Elevating the Safety Net Initiative, which has given a total of more than $8.4 million to the university, allowing CDU to award full scholarships to 16 medical students and fund residents and faculty salaries while expanding the school.