LOS ANGELES — Alexis Philius was destined to work in the health care industry. She has been a bedside nurse for 13 years.

“My mother was actually a nurse,” Philius said.

What You Need To Know

  • The United Nurses Association of California and the Union of Health Care Professionals announced the Alexis G. Philius Scholarship 

  • The scholarship is designated for Black students pursuing a license, certificate, or degree in health care

  • The scholarship was named for Alexis G. Philius and honors her work helping homeless people

  • The association and union said they hope to see more racial equity in health care

While she and her mother have thrived in nursing, she has seen many friends fall short of their medical professional goals because of money.

“They weren’t able to afford nursing, or they didn’t qualify for certain scholarships or grants,” Philius explained. “It was just a lot of disadvantages in the community that they had, that I was grateful that I didn’t have.”

Because of the underrepresentation of African Americans in the health care industry, the United Nurses Association of California and the Union of Health Care Professionals, or UNAC/UHCP, have created the Alexis G. Philius scholarship, which will go to five Black students pursuing health care. The scholarship was named in Philius’s honor for her dedication to medical service, her work helping homeless people, and her nonprofit organization. 

“I was honored because I’ve been doing work in the community with the homeless, but I never thought it was gonna turn into a scholarship,” she said. 

The numbers would say the scholarship is more than needed. UNAC/UHCP said only 23% of Black Americans have a doctor who shares their ethnicity. That’s compared to 82% of whites. For Philius, having a doctor who understands your background is crucial to proper care.

“When we make care plans and educate our population, we can relate a little bit more because you know what kind of food they’re eating, that we might not have the healthy stores in our communities,” she said.

“The goal is to have more people with the same knowledge so that we can explain and we can relate, and they feel a little bit more comfortable.”

The deadline to apply for the scholarship is April 30. To apply, visit unacuhcp.org/apply/.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article misstated the number of years Philius had been a nurse. The error has been corrected. (April 8, 2021)