About Research Clusters and Leaders

Research Administration

About Research Clusters and Leaders




The Cancer Cluster at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science is dedicated to reducing cancer health disparities through research, education and training, and community outreach endeavors. The Cancer Cluster is dedicated to engaging students, staff, researchers, academic faculty, community faculty, and community members into educational and research activities directed at understanding the biological, clinical, biobehavioral, and socioeconomic factors which contribute to disparities. The Cluster is led by Dr. Jay Vadgama, the Endowed Chair in Cancer Research, and is housed in the Division of Cancer Research and Training and the CDU/UCLA Cancer Center Partnership to Eliminate Cancer Health Disparities at CDU.

Under Dr. Vadgama’s direction, the Cancer Cluster has directed resources for the following:

  • Establish Educational Research Seminars, Visiting Lectures, and Workshops for CDU investigators, students, and community members/faculty.
  • Provide access/resources for students, faculty, and community to participate and benefit from educational opportunities at other leading Institutions such as UCLA and Cedars Sinai Medical Center.
  • Participate in producing trans-disciplinary seminars by partnering with other Centers/Clusters on campus such as CTSI, AXIS, Division of Endocrinology and others.
  • Create opportunities for Research Collaborations among CDU, UCLA, Cedars Sinai, and other Institutions. Examples include but are not limited to, identifying potential collaborators, providing seed pilot funding, peer-review and grant preparation support, as well as access to leaders in the field to provide mentoring.
  • Create a nucleus of scientific opportunities, supplemented with mentoring and financial support, for the initiation and success of research projects lead by CDU investigators. Partnering with other campus Centers, such as AXIS and CTSI, to further support investigator research and resources.
  • Recruit CDU investigators to participate and benefit from the CDU-UCLA Cancer Center Partnership.
  • Enhance the number of faculty level CDU investigators conducting cancer research in health disparities.
  • Recruit competitive post-doctoral fellows, medical students, nursing and graduate students, as well as undergraduate and high school students to perform research and receive education and training in cancer research at CDU.
  • Provide opportunities for students to seek mentors and obtain experience at CDU and/or UCLA and provide mentorship and resources to support more underrepresented students to pursue careers in medicine and health disparities research.
  • Enhance the high quality of science and research performed at CDU which results in competitive and high-impact publications for the Cancer Cluster, CDU, and the CDU-UCLA partnership.
  • Heighten extramural funding at CDU by obtaining large competitive grants, mentor and support CDU investigators to obtain competitive funding, and attract meritorious faculty to CDU who can continue to bring extramural funding to the CDU and Cancer Cluster.
  • Develop Resources in the Areas of Cancer Research that includes: Basic, Clinical, Translational, Prevention and Control, and Outreach/Community based.
  • Continue to establish and expand local, national, and international collaborations in cancer research

Cancer Journal Club
A weekly seminar series is hosted by the Cancer Cluster in Partnership with the Division of Cancer Research and Training/ Center to Eliminate Cancer Health Disparities which is open to all students, staff, faculty, and community members.

A key mission of the Cancer Cluster is addressing cancer health disparities by providing educational seminars focused on cancer health disparities issues unique to underserved and underrepresented communities at the basic, clinical, and community science level. The Cancer Journal Club fosters educational exchanges between researchers, clinicians and the community. In 2013, the Cancer Journal Club received Continuing Medical Education certification for select seminars. The goal of the Cancer Journal Club is to facilitate transfer of translational findings from the academic setting to bedside and community.

The Cancer Journal Club is held every Monday, from 12:00-2:00pm in the Augustus F. Hawkins Building (1720 E. 120th St., Los Angeles, CA 90059) in Room 3071. For upcoming events and speakers, please visit: http://www.cdrewu-dcrt.org/ .
The Cancer Journal Club is held every Monday


Jay Vadgama Ph.D Jay Vadgama Ph.D., Professor of Medicine at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science and at the David Geffen UCLA School of Medicine. He obtained his undergraduate and graduate degrees at University of London, England, and completed postdoctoral training at the University of Michigan under Professor Halvor Christensen (Noble Prize Nominee). He joined UCLA School of Medicine in 1986. He was recruited to CDU in 1992 as Director of Laboratory Research and Development. Dr. Vadgama was appointed Associate Vice President for Research and Health Affairs at CDU where he is working to strengthen clinical, basic, and translational research/programs and integrate them with academic programs across campus. He is also currently the Interim Executive Vice President for Research and Health Affairs. Dr. Vadgama is the Chief of the Division of Cancer Research and Training, Director for Center to Eliminate Cancer Health Disparities, and Director of Molecular Oncology Program. He serves as the Associate Director at the CDU site of the Clinical and Translational Scientific Award grant (CTSA) and the new PI for the AXIS (Accelerating Excellence in Translational Science) grant. He holds the Endowed Chair for Cancer Research, and is the Director of the Cancer Cluster at CDU. At the request of the University president and deans, Dr. Vadgama has represented the University at several national forums on cancer and serves in an advisory capacity to the president and deans for directing cancer initiatives at CDU and in partnership with UCLA.
Research Experience: Dr. Vadgama has extensive experience in conducting oncology research that integrates clinical, basic, and community-based research. The outcome of these efforts has resulted in the development of translational cancer research at CDU. Research programs in his division focus on: 1) genetics and epigenetics; 2) identification of cellular/molecular markers, and novel genes for early detection, prevention and management of breast, colorectal cancer, and prostate cancers; 3) mechanisms associated with bone metastasis from breast cancer; 4) role of mismatch repair proteins and microsatellite instability in colorectal cancer in minority populations; 5) identification and characterization of normal and cancer stem cells in breast and prostate cancers that contribute to drug resistance; 6) cancer outreach and prevention studies. He has been a recipient of numerous extramural grants. Recent examples include: 1) Identification of novel biomarkers associated with risk for bone metastasis from breast cancer (NIH/NCI CA15083-25S3); and 2) Role of Mismatch Repair Proteins and Microsatellite Instability in Colorectal Cancer in African American and Hispanic patients (CA 15083-25S3). Currently, he is principal investigator of several center grants in cancer at CDU in partnership with UCLA: 1U54CA143931 and 1U56 CA101599-01 from NCI/NIH, programs funded to enhance cancer research infrastructure at CDU and to establish a Center to Eliminate Cancer Health Disparities. He is also PI of the DOD BC043180 grant, a program funded by the Department of Defense to develop a center of excellence in breast cancer research, education, and treatment at CDU. He is currently the principal investigator of the AXIS grant (U54MD007598) funded by NIH-NIMHD. Dr. Vadgama has extensive collaborations with renowned cancer investigators at UCLA, Cedars, Harbor-UCLA, and some international groups. Currently, he is working on multiple grants with collaborators at UCLA to develop breast cancer studies which target triple-negative breast cancers.
Other Professional Experience: On a national level, Dr. Vadgama serves as reviewer for grants submitted to the NIH, DOD, VHA, and EPSRC. Dr. Vadgama also serves as an international reviewer for grants, such as for the French NCI (Institut National du Cancer, INCa). Dr. Vadgama is a reviewer for 14 peer-reviewed journals, for example: Clinical Cancer Research; Cancer Research; Molecular Cancer Therapeutics, Current Cancer Therapy Reviews; Journal of Biological Chemistry; International Journal of Cancer; American Journal of Physiology; Journal of Cellular Biochemistry; etc; and is on the editorial board for several journals. Dr. Vadgama has participated at national and international cancer meetings as chair, co-chair, invited honorary and keynote speaker.
Teaching and Training Experience: Dr. Vadgama has extensive experience in training minority and non-minority students in clinical and basic research. He was funded for many years with the 1R25DK067015 NIDDK grant, a program that provided opportunity for undergraduate minority students to be trained in biomedical research. This program is now superseded by a five year funded program in Cancer Education and Training focused on cancer health disparities. Dr. Vadgama and his team have developed successful teaching and training programs for: undergraduate, medical, masters, and nursing students, as well as clinical residents, postdoctoral fellows, and junior faculty from CDU, UCLA, and other Universities. His division conducts weekly “Research- in-Progress” and Journal Club meetings, in addition to monthly seminars with visiting speakers, and workshops. Dr. Vadgama continues to serve as mentor and thesis advisor for Master’s students and Medical students. In addition, he has served as PhD thesis advisor for international students and is working with CDU to develop an integrated PhD program at CDU.
Mentoring Experience: Dr. Vadgama has had the opportunity to mentor over 32 postdoctoral fellows, 13 clinical residents, >10 graduate or medical students (mostly underrepresented), >80 undergraduate students across the nation, and several high school students. Dr. Vadgama continues to serve as a mentor for several funded junior faculty at CDU and the UCLA School of Medicine. In addition, he mentors several minority students from schools such as CDU, UCLA, UCI, UCR, CSUDH, USC, and others.


Cardiometabolic Diseases – Dr. Theodore Freidman


The goal of the cardiometabolic cluster is to foster collaborative solutions for improving minority health and reducing ethnic and geographic disparities in cardiovascular and related diseases. The cluster aims to accelerate research advances by employing innovative, multi-disciplinary and inter-institutional team-science approaches aimed at improving minority health and reducing ethnic and geographic disparities in the incidence and outcomes of cardiometabolic diseases.


Theodore Friedman, MD, PhD
Theodore Friedman, MD, PhD Theodore C. Friedman, MD, PhDis Professor of Medicine at the UCLA School of Medicine and Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science. He is also the Chair of the Department of Medicine and Chief of the Division of Endocrinology, Molecular Medicine, and Metabolism at Charles R. Drew University. Dr. Friedman is board certified in Internal Medicine and Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism. He is also an endowed professor in Cardiometabolic Disease. He is the director of the Minority Institution Drug Abuse Research Program (MIDARP) at CDU. He has published over 100 papers in peer-review journals and wrote the thyroid and adrenal chapters for the widely read textbook, Cecil Essentials of Medicine. His basic science research interests are in the effect of drugs of abuse on the endocrine system and specifically on nicotine and insulin resistance, as well as drugs of abuse on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. His clinical research interests are adrenal and pituitary disorders as well as diabetes and metabolism and he is co-investigator on an ADA-funded study giving Vitamin D to patients with prediabetes. His clinic interest include difficult to diagnose pituitary, adrenal and thyroid disorders. He also wrote the popular lay book on thyroid diseases, “ Everything Health Guide to Thyroid Diseases” that came out as a 2nd edition in December 2011.


HIV/AIDS – Dr. Nina Harawa

Mission Statement: The CDU HIV Cluster is a multidisciplinary group dedicated to ensuring excellence in HIV education, research and service provision for underserved communities, both locally and internationally. We accomplish this by stimulating new ideas, supporting the efforts of our members, and coordinating and representing CDU’s activities in HIV.

The Cluster and CDU-affiliated service providers include OASIS and SPECTRUM Clinics, domestic and international research and service programs, the Pacific AIDS Education and Training Center (PAETC), two HIV testing programs, and AIDS Project Los Angeles.  All programs and services are located on the southeast corner of the CDU campus.  Services are offered free of charge to low-income populations.  The HIV Cluster is headed by Dr. Nina T. Harawa and meets monthly in order to organize and plan activities for HIV education, research and services. 

THE HIV/AIDS CLUSTER LEADER -  DR. NINA HARAWADr. Nina Harawa is an Associate Professor with the Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science and an adjunct Associate Professor at UCLA. Trained in Epidemiology, her research involves understanding trends in HIV and other sexually transmitted infections and developing effective, culturally relevant prevention interventions. She has partnered with several local organizations to conduct innovative community-based research in a variety of populations – including high-risk African American men, sexually active African American and Latina women, older adults, and incarcerated and post-incarcerated men and women. In an effort to foster methodologically sound and effective approaches to addressing health disparities, Dr. Harawa has also written about conceptual issues in the categorization and analysis of racial and ethnic groups in health research. She regularly shares her knowledge and findings by presenting data to community, policy, and academic groups. In addition, she launched the Breaking the Silence events, a series of one-day conferences and trainings designed to educate and empower women of color and their providers in order to improve sexual health (www.breakingthesilenceevent.com). Dr. Harawa has received a number of awards for her community-based research and HIV education efforts, including an Unsung Hero Award from the NAACP in 2011.


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