Building on its visionary investment in Cedars-Sinai’s neurosurgery scholarship program, The Ray Charles Foundation has donated a second gift of $1 million to support critical training and research to advance the neurosciences.
The Ray Charles Foundation Scholars Fund in Neurosurgery is overseen by highly respected neurosurgeon Keith Black, MD, chair of the Department of Neurosurgery and the Ruth and Lawrence Harvey Chair in Neuroscience.
Each year, a cohort of exceptional students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities is mentored by researchers personally selected by Black. The scholars also shadow him as he treats patients and develops groundbreaking therapies in Cedars-Sinai’s neuroscience laboratories.
“The students chosen for this program are destined for greatness in the world of medicine,” Black said. “What the scholars program aims to do, as a shared mission between Cedars-Sinai and The Ray Charles Foundation, is build the students’ scientific acuity as they establish their medical careers. This valuable funding is as much a catalyst for the program’s forward momentum as the students’ steadfast work ethic and the mentors’ expertise.”
Valerie Ervin, president of The Ray Charles Foundation, said Black’s leadership drives the foundation’s commitment to help future generations of neurosurgeons. “This program trains and mentors students from historically Black institutions, providing exposure and opportunities they may not otherwise have,” Ervin said. “That’s why it was so important for The Ray Charles Foundation to make a second $1 million gift.”
The scholars fund promotes diverse representation, specifically in neurosciences, and more broadly as part of Cedars-Sinai’s continuing commitment to diversity and inclusion across all medical specialties.
“Cedars-Sinai is resolute in its mission to create pathways of success for future medical professionals,” said Thomas M. Priselac, president and CEO of Cedars-Sinai and the Warschaw Law Chair in Health Care Leadership. “We’re honored and grateful that The Ray Charles Foundation has chosen our institution to collaborate with in this important effort.”
The iconic musician first showed his support for Cedars-Sinai some 20 years ago, naming the Ray Charles Cafeteria and Conference Center. He died in 2004.
Past and current scholars say participating in the program has changed their lives, introducing them to complex lab techniques and providing the focus and discipline required to take on a rigorous workload with precision.
When asked what guidance the legendary late entertainer would have imparted to scholars chosen for the coveted program, Ervin was quick with an answer: “If Ray Charles were with us today, he would tell the neuro scholars, ‘Do your best practice, stay focused and keep on your journey.’”