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Scholarships designed to boost minority ranks in health care

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By AFSCME Staff, UNAC/UHCP ·

LOS ANGELES – The 2021 UNAC/UHCP Alexis G. Philius Scholarship program, which is designed to increase the numbers of African Americans in the health care field, is accepting applications through March 31. 

Five students of Black/African descent will each receive $2,000 to pursue health care careers. The scholarships are for those pursuing a license, certificate, or health care degree at an accredited college, university, trade or technical school at any time between Jan. 1, 2021 and Dec. 31, 2021. Read UNAC/UHCP’s press release announcing this scholarship. 

Lack of diversity has significant consequences on health outcomes and health equity for patients and communities of color. After noticing the gross underrepresentation of Black/African American professionals in the health care industry, UNAC/UHCP created this scholarship to specifically increase students’ access to these fields.

Alexis Goudeau Philius, an African American bedside nurse for 13 years, was inspired to make a difference after noticing homeless people on Los Angeles streets during her commute to and from work. She founded Highly Favored: A Blessing to Others, a nonprofit organization that distributes food, toiletries, clothing and other supplies to the homeless in Los Angeles County. 

“I’m honored that my name’s been chosen for this scholarship,” said Philius. “I was raised by a single mother and I know how hard she worked to put me through school, so I always wanted to help out. That’s why it meant so much to me when I received a scholarship to nursing school. To help give one out now means even more, because I know the impact it can have on people’s lives, especially in the Black community.”

Financial obstacles were identified as the top barrier to success among minority students in a study of minority applicants to nursing programs, while numerous studies – such as this one – document the underrepresentation of Black students across disciplines in health care and its consequences.

“We don’t have that many Black caregivers who work by the bedside,” said Philius. “That can make it difficult for marginalized populations. The more we have working, the better the outcomes for patients in Black and other minority populations.”

The need for greater Black representation in health care has never been more apparent than during the COVID-19 pandemic, during which minorities have died at a disproportionately higher rate than non-Hispanic whites. Nearly twice as many Black patients as non-Hispanic white patients are dying from the disease.

Philius offers this encouragement to applicants: “I say follow your passions, seize opportunities, and plant the right seeds that will last you a lifetime. Know that you are enough. Don't let anyone tell you what you are doing is too small. You have the power to change the world."

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