By Shirley Hawkins
WILLOWBROOK — The Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science has received $50 million in funding from the state Legislature to construct a new building and to launch its own four-year medical degree program.
With the construction of the building, the university aims to create an independent medical degree program separate from the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. Through the Charles R. Drew/UCLA Medical Education Program, Drew has successfully trained 28 medical students per year since 1979.
University President and Chief Executive Dr. David Carlisle said that the university had been working with members of the state Legislature to secure funding for its medical degree program and extended a special thank you to Assemblyman Mike Gipson, state Sen. Steven Bradford and county Supervisor Holly Mitchell.
“They all worked tirelessly to help secure funding for the university,” Carlisle said. He also thanked Gov. Gavin Newsom for his support.
“We are just tremendously excited for the university to receive this funding,” said Carlisle. “We are especially excited for the community because we would not be here without their support.”
The university was founded in 1966 in the aftermath of the 1965 Watts Riots.
In addition to its medical program, Drew University offers more than a dozen bachelor’s and master’s degrees and certificates, including radiologic science, public health, nursing and biomedical science.
It has graduated more than 600 physicians, 1,270 physician assistants and more than 1,700 other health professionals, as well as training more than 2,700 physician specialists through its sponsored residency programs since its inception.
The university’s Mervyn M. Dymally School of Nursing has graduated more than 1,400 nursing professionals, including more than 1,000 family nurse practitioners, since it started in 2010.
Drew plans to increase Black graduate students by almost 30% and the number of Latino graduates by nearly 20% for a total of 60 medical school students per year.
“We are expecting our first new class of medical students in the fall of 2023,” Carlisle said. “When we open our program, we will be training 60 new medical students in addition to the 28 we already have with UCLA.”
Carlisle added that the funding will help to increase enrollment of Black and Latinos in the health care workforce in California.
More than 70% of Drew’s graduates since 2000 have been people of color, and statistics estimate that one-third of all minority physicians practicing in Los Angeles County are graduates of Drew University or its residency training programs.
But despite the statistics, Carlisle added, “It has been shown in study after study that there is an acute lack of Black and Latino physicians in California and it is especially acute because of the size and diversity of the population. That is why the state is invested in Charles Drew because they know we are focused on training Black and Latino physicians.
“We want to place doctors in underserved communities that have the most challenging health disparities,” Carlisle added. “One way to mitigate those disparities is to train our students in the health professions in order to improve the health of the communities that they came from. [Drew University] is committed to improving the health of South Los Angeles.”
The $50 million in funding will be used toward construction of a new $112 million facility, which will consist of a 100,000-square-foot building containing virtual and standard anatomy labs, classrooms, staff and faculty offices, and expanded spaces for students.
“Right now we are transitioning into construction design and I’m not sure when it will be completed,” Carlisle said. Construction is slated to begin next year.
“We’re guessing construction will be completed in the years 2024 or 2025,” Carlisle said.
As far as securing more funds to complete the facility, Carlisle added that there is no commitment from the state for additional funding.
“We will work with a variety of sources, individuals, foundations and with the federal government to receive additional funds,” he said.
“We’re fulfilling the dream of more than 50 years to bring a medical education program to South Los Angeles. We are honored and privileged to do so and we are appreciative of Governor Newsom and the state’s investment in the university.”
Shirley Hawkins is a freelance reporter for Wave Newspapers. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.