Sutter Health and Charles R. Drew University Announce First Student Scholarship Cohort Under New Partnership


First five of 25 California students will enter the university’s medical school with full-tuition scholarships, academic support and experiential learning opportunities from Sutter Health

Sacramento, Calif., July 10, 2024 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Sutter Health, one of the nation’s largest integrated health care systems, and Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science (CDU), the only federally-designated Historically Black institution west of Texas, are pleased to introduce their first cohort of scholarship winners. The recipients are students from across California who will start this summer in the CDU MD Program as part of the Class of 2028.

These inaugural scholarship recipients were selected based on their academic achievements, personal and professional accomplishments and a commitment to community service, making them invaluable additions to CDU’s Class of 2028:


Derrick Agbemenu (Fairfield, Calif.)

Eric Arauza (West Sacramento, Calif.)

Priscilla Covarrubias (Salinas, Calif.)

Naomi Dillard (Sacramento, Calif.)

Anaissa Medina (Salida, Calif.)

“We’ve intentionally selected five students who have a passion for serving their communities and the world around them,” said Leon Clark, vice president and chief academic affairs officer at Sutter Health. “While our goal is to help alleviate some of the financial burdens of pursuing a medical degree, our teams will also be here to support these students on a personal level. We are ready to coach and mentor these students, whether one-on-one or inside real-world clinic settings, to help them experience their education in a new light.”

  • Agbemenu’s first impressions of medicine were unfavorable while growing up in Ghana. It wasn’t until U.S.-based doctors visited his community and cared for his grandmother that his perception changed. Since immigrating to the U.S. at 17 and successfully earning his bachelor’s degree, Agbemenu realized his desire to become a physician while volunteering as an outreach coordinator at a student-run clinic supporting the community of Oak Park in Sacramento.
  • Growing up in a Latino working-class environment, Arauza worked toward a life similar to those in his community: working a labor job in areas such as construction or food services. He also saw generations of his family diagnosed with diabetes—a fate he thought he may inherit, too. But thanks to numerous mentors, programs, internships and the love of his family, he is ready to become a doctor and help break the cycle where positive health outcomes are often reserved for those from higher-income ZIP codes.
  • Covarrubias grew up in Salinas, an agricultural community along California’s Central Coast with a Latino population of 79%. She hopes to promote health equity among underrepresented communities, particularly Spanish-speaking populations, after observing her own family and neighbors struggle with access. She credits the mentorship and support of the three physicians from Santa Lucia Medical Group in Salinas where she has worked for the past four years for helping her find her path toward medicine.
  • STEM classes and STEM summer camps helped stir a passion for learning inside Dillard, while also surrounding her with like-minded individuals who shared similar goals. She academically flourished while attending Prairie View A&M University, a HBCU in Texas, and served in numerous student leadership roles there. During the summer before her junior year, she had a transformative experience bringing mobile COVID-19 testing and vaccination clinics into underserved communities, particularly migrant camps in and around Sacramento, that inspired her to pursue medicine.
  • Medina observed the lasting effects that inadequate health care access had on her grandparents. She often joined them during doctor and hospital visits, where she would translate English to Spanish between her grandparents and the medical professionals. Medina did her best to bridge the language and cultural divides. However, her frustration only grew knowing her grandparents deserved better — and ultimately ignited the fire in her to become a physician.

The Sutter Health scholars program, one of the largest in CDU’s history, is designed to increase the number of diverse health care professionals by widening pathways for underrepresented, aspiring physicians in California. Sutter’s $7.5 million initial investment will provide five full-tuition scholarships across five cohorts, totaling 25 scholarships. Launched as part of the organizations’ new, long-term partnership to expand access to more inclusive and equitable care, the scholarship program offers full tuition, academic support and experiential learning opportunities to students with demonstrated leadership skills and a commitment to serving under-resourced communities.

CDU opened its nationally accredited medical school in 2023, making it one of only four Historically Black Medical Schools in America. The incoming class is responding to Los Angeles County’s, the state’s and the nation’s need for physician workforce diversity and increased healthcare access in underserved and under-resourced communities. With a strong focus on social justice and health equity, CDU students often return to practice and provide care in underserved communities after graduation.

“Understanding the root cause of inequities – and taking practical steps to address them – is how we can make meaningful changes to our health care system,” said Dr. Deborah Prothrow-Stith, dean and professor of medicine at CDU. “We are grateful to our partners at Sutter Health for providing resources to a new pool of diverse, aspiring health care professionals and look forward to seeing how these bright individuals go on to improve community health throughout California.”

In addition to the scholarship program, Sutter Health & CDU’s long-term collaboration will support the launch of the Health Equity Alliance for Research & Evaluation (HEARE) – a new incubator lab to accelerate health equity research and develop interventions. The partnership also includes academic and experiential learning opportunities across Sutter’s system, including at its Institute for Advancing Health Equity. This alliance furthers Sutter Health’s work to remove barriers for those wanting to enter the profession. The system is on pace to become the largest community-based health care training institution in Northern California – developing graduate medical education programs and expanding its footprint to train and graduate approximately 1,000 residents and fellows each year by 2030.

About Sutter Health

Sutter Health is a not-for-profit, people-centered health care system providing comprehensive care throughout California. Sutter Health is committed to health equity, community partnerships and innovative, high-quality patient care. Today, Sutter Health is pursuing a bold new plan to reach more people and make excellent health care more connected and accessible. The health system’s 57,000+ staff and clinicians and 12,000+ affiliated physicians currently serve more than 3 million patients with a focus on expanding opportunities to serve patients, people and communities better. Sutter Health provides exceptional, affordable care through its hospitals, medical groups, ambulatory surgery centers, urgent care clinics, telehealth, home health and hospice services. Dedicated to transforming health care, at Sutter Health, getting better never stops. Learn more about how Sutter Health is transforming healthcare at and

About Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Sciences

Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science (CDU) is a private, nonprofit, community founded, student-centered University committed to cultivating diverse health professions leaders who are dedicated to social justice and health equity for underserved populations through outstanding education, clinical service and community engagement. CDU is also a leader in health disparities research with a focus on education, training and treatment for cancer, diabetes, cardiometabolic, COVID and HIV/AIDS. Founded in 1966 in the heart of South Los Angeles, CDU offers a range of undergraduate degree, graduate degree, doctoral degree and certificate programs including nursing, radiologic technology, medicine, biomedical science, public health, computed tomography, physician assistant and psychology. Learn more about CDU at

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CONTACT: Angie Sheets Sutter Health 916-494-9547 [email protected] 

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