L.A. Care announces Elevating the Safety Net initiative

At a press conference Thursday L.A. Care Health Plan CEO John Baackes announced an ambitious $31 million initiative called Elevating the Safety Net to address the looming physician shortage by recruiting primary care doctors into the safety net practice in L.A. County. The state of California has a forecasted shortage of up to 9,000 doctors by the year 2030. As Baackes explained, to ensure adequate coverage for its members, L.A. Care is making the commitment to begin investing in the future of L.A. County’s safety net now.

The program features three prongs:

  1. A clinical and practice recruitment program that will offer  grants of up to $125,000 to recruit new primary care doctors to L.A. County or into safety net practices. This money is free to be used as the clinic desires for salary supplements, singing bonuses, moving expenses, or recruitment costs.
  2. A medical school loan repayment program that will serve as a companion to the physician recruitment program. The program is designed to help reduce the burden of medical school debt financially freeing physicians to choose safety net practices.
  3. Eight medical student scholarships worth up to $350,000 each to build a pipeline for future safety net providers.

The announcement centered around the introduction of the eight scholarship recipients all from diverse backgrounds who have demonstrated the desire and commitment to serve and improve care in low-income areas.  Four students will attend medical school at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science and four will attend the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

The awardees were officially presented stethoscopes by children from the community and white coats by Dr. Clarence Braddock III, of the David Geffen School of Medicine who thanked L.A. Care and gave perspective on what the scholarships mean for the future physicians and the community.

“The average medical student walks away with $200,000 in debt. That changes the way that you look at your future. The ability to graduate debt-free has a very tangible impact on students. These students can now choose any specialty they want in any community they want. That impact cannot be understated.”