By Zane D. Landin, Los Angeles News Observer

The underrepresentation of Black/African American professionals in the health care industry has led to significant, unequal disparities in health outcomes and equity for patients, professionals, and communities of color. Considering this, The United Nurses Associations of California/Union of Health Care Professionals who represent more than 32,000 registered nurses and other health care professionals in California and Hawaii has created the Alexis G. Philius Scholarship to increase access to health care fields for Black/African American students.

The Alexis G. Philius Scholarship is for students of Black/African descent who are pursuing a license, certificate, or health care degree at an accredited college, university, trade, or technical school at any time between January 1, 2021, and December 31, 2021. The deadline to apply is March 31, 2021, by 3 p.m. 

Five deserving students will be selected for $2,000 scholarships. Aside from the monetary reward, scholarship recipients will be afforded career development, mentorship, and networking opportunities. Applicants will be evaluated based on their academic promise, social awareness, community and/or social justice commitment, and professional aptitude. 

While Americans of Black/African descent represent around 13% of the U.S. population, they have the fewest number of registered nurses accumulating 6.2%, medical school graduates of 6%, and 23% of Black Americans have a physician who shares their race and/or ethnicity. There has always been a need to address the low number of Black/African Americans in the health care industry. It has never been more apparent, especially since COVID-19 has been killing Black Americans at an unexpected rate at roughly two times based on their share of the population. Of those hospitalized with COVID-19, one-third have been Black/African American, and they account for one in four COVID-19 deaths in the United States.

The Alexis G. Philius Scholarship was inspired by Alexis Goudeau Philius, RN, an African American, bedside nurse. Philius has been a nurse for the past 13 years, where she currently works at Kaiser Permanente on Sunset in Los Angeles. Often she would witness the harsh reality of homelessness in Los Angeles; thus, she founded Highly Favored: A Blessing to Others, a nonprofit organization that is widely-known for distributing food, toiletries, warm clothing, and other supplies to homeless people 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 is 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. This scholarship will help them enter the medical field.”

The Alexis G. Philius Scholarship is the newest addition to three other UNAC/UHCP scholarships that have been awarded to 154 students since the program began in 2013 and distributed $401,000 since 2015. The other three UNAC/UHCP scholarships are the Kathy J. Sackman Member Scholarship for UNAC/UHCP members; the Sonia Moseley Family Scholarship for family of UNAC/UHCP members; and the at-large Delima MacDonald Community Scholarship. 

Apply for the 2021 UNAC/UHCP Alexis G. Philius Scholarship at https://unacuhcp.formstack.com/forms/?4210523-EVhGYaHox5