8 SoCal students receive full-ride medical scholarships in effort to combat looming doctor shortage

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- A multi-million dollar plan aims to get highly qualified and motivated primary care doctors into the Los Angeles health care system.

Nonye Ikeanyi was one of eight Southern California students who received a full-ride medical school scholarship awarded by L.A. Care at a ceremony Tuesday.

"Me getting this scholarship is totally out of the blue and totally unexpected. But it's been just an honor and a blessing," Ikeanyi said.

The scholarships are tied to L.A. Care's Elevating the Safety Net initiative, a $31 million effort to try to attract and keep highly qualified primary care physicians in under-served communities in L.A. County.

A recent study found there will be a shortage of nearly 9,000 primary care doctors by 2030.

"L.A. Care Health recognizes we have a shortage of primary care doctors in L.A. County, particularly those on Medi-Cal or those on what we call the safety net and in vulnerable neighborhoods," said John Baackes, L.A. Care Health CEO.

Some of the scholarship recipients will attend UCLA's David Geffen School of Medicine, while others will study at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science.

L.A. Care said the recipients don't have to return to their communities, but they were chosen based on their likelihood of wanting to do so.

One of last year's recipients, Alma Lopez, recalled one of her most valuable experiences at Olive View Medical Center.

"At every visit, I had the rewarding opportunity to interview and connect with Spanish-only-speaking patients, individuals who reminded me of my own family in a community I could see myself working with for the rest of my life," Lopez said.

Ikeanyi - who majored in mechanical engineering and biology at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and was raised by a single mom in Rancho Cucamonga - said her passion to help others drew her to medicine.

"All the different circumstances that happened in my life, that have shown me that there's really a gap between those who can afford medicine and those who can't," she said.

Ikeanyi also said she hopes to give back, noting the scholarship will help make that happen.

"We'll be entirely debt free and allowing to choose whatever specialty we want," she said. "I'm really excited to go through medical school and see what happens next."
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