October 8, 2014  

2014 State of the University Address

Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science
Delivered by
President and CEO Dr. David M. Carlisle
October 8, 2014


Two years ago, from this podium, I spoke to you about survival as we emerged from profound academic and fiscal challenges. I vowed to redouble our commitment to our mission to address inadequate health care in underserved communities, and I promised that Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science would once again rise from the ashes.

Last year, I was considerably more upbeat! I was able to celebrate our faculty and our students and to recognize their accomplishments. I proudly announced that we had, in fact, risen. 

I asked you to believe in CDU because you share our commitment to diversity, to community-based health care, and to striking the phrase “underserved community” from our health care lexicon.

I asked you to believe in CDU and you did. You continued to believe, and as a result, we continued to grow.

Our students are creative, innovative and dedicated. They are finding new ways to address inequalities and inefficiencies in our heath care system. They are leading statewide efforts to insure as many Californians as we can. They have embraced our mission and are living it every single day as they achieve more than at any time in our past. Because you continued to believe.

Members of our faculty are seen as national leaders in their fields, and are getting the recognition they have long deserved. Because you continued to believe.

This year, we received a $15.5 million grant to continue our work with the National Institutes of Health and the National Institute on Minority Health Disparities’ Accelerating eXcellence in Translational Science program. The AXIS grant proposal was submitted by Dr. Jay Vadgama—the Principal Investigator on the grant—and received the highest score in the nation. This grant will allow CDU to continue building a research infrastructure to continue our multi-and interdisciplinary collaborations with community partners targeting health disparities.

And we have been able to increase scholarship assistance, increase student retention, and re-launch our Physicians Assistant program…all because you continued to believe.

As we prepare to celebrate our 50th anniversary, in 2016 the state of Charles R. Drew University is as strong as it has been at any time in recent memory, and getting stronger every single day.

We are no longer looking back. We are no longer trying to survive. We are finally and irrevocably on a trajectory towards institutional excellence.

We can be proud of students like Alicia Morehead Gee, who will be inducted into the UCLA Delta chapter of Alpha Omega Alpha Medical honor society. Alicia is a senior in the CDU/UCLA College of Medicine Class of 2015. This honor is reserved for the top 16% of students nationally. Before coming to Drew, Alicia graduated from Stanford, but before that she was born and raised in Inglewood, California.

So my message to you today is very simple: If you continue to believe, we will continue to thrive.

Today, we have 620 students, and we aspire to grow to 1,000 within 5 years. This period of rapid growth will enable us to move from an enrollment level where tuition revenue was insufficient to cover basic infrastructure needs to a level where tuition revenue can actually support strategic investments in student aid and services and other University initiatives.

Central to our community-focused mission is our commitment to recruit and retain students from underserved communities. If we are to train a corps of culturally competent health care professionals, we must reach into those communities and provide opportunities to promising young people.

One of the greatest disparities in all of health care is the disparity in financial power. Economic disparities have long limited access to the preventative resources and healthcare intervention that we know make a difference. But at an even more insidious level, economic disparities have prevented members of underserved communities from even imagining themselves able to pursue careers in health fields.

The reality is that prospective students who come from the communities we serve—who want to serve theirhome communities—often lack the financial resources to attend a graduate or undergraduate program in health-related fields. And even once a student has matriculated, financial pressures can force the student to leave school without completing a degree program.

Part of believing in CDU is believing in—and investing in—our students.

This year, I am proud to say we awarded $288,000 in student scholarships to new and continuing students.  But we can do more.  And if you continue to believe in us, we will do more.

To help these students bridge the gap between the cost of attendance and awards from Federal student aid programs and outside scholarship programs, we hope to provide an additional $100,000 in scholarships this year to academically promising graduate students with unmet financial need.

We have also funded a $3.5 million dollar endowment specifically to support educational programs and scholarships. Although our University endowment has grown nearly 30-fold in 14 years to more than $70M, more than 95% of those funds are restricted for research, training and infrastructure purposes.

These two commitments represent a long-term investment in our students and, in turn, in our communities.

If we are here to provide access to advanced health professions degree programs for lower-income students, we want those students to spend their nights studying, not working.

If we are here to eliminate health disparities—to ensure that a family living in Watts has access to the same quality of care as a family living in Brentwood—we cannot send our graduates into the world with debts that can only be repaid after years in a highly-salaried private practice.

That’s not why students come to Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science. They come to follow their passion. They come to give back. They don’t come to follow the money, and it is our responsibility—each and every one of us—to make sure they never have to.

Seventy seven percent of last year’s College of Medicine class matched into primary care fields and an additional 20% in Family Medicine. If ever there was evidence of our students’ commitment to our mission, it can be seen in the number of our graduates who choose to specialize in obstetrics and gynecology, in pediatrics and geriatrics, in internal medicine and family medicine.

Ninety eight percent of our Family Nurse Practitioner students pass their certification exam on their first try, becoming primary care practitioners and further eliminating barriers to care.

When we talk about eliminating disparities in the health care system, one of the greatest steps we can take is ensuring that, in every community, there is access to high quality, culturally competent primary care providers.  That is the legacy of Charles R. Drew University, and by believing in CDU, we will make it possible for that legacy to continue to grow.

We will make it possible for students like Mauricio Franco and Angel Martinez, second year students in our Post-baccalaureate Program to continue the work they’re already doing to ensure that more Californians have access to health insurance. In the last enrollment period, many Latino, African American and some Asian communities were unable to take full advantage of Covered California for a number of reasons. As we begin the second enrollment period of the Affordable Care Act— which lasts from November 15, 2014 though February 15, 2014, Mauricio and Angel are working to eliminate those barriers and make sure nobody is left behind.

We will make it possible for students and faculty to further their research and engage the community around the University in public health awareness programs using Mission Maker mini grants. Project Cardens/Gardening Mobilization Project is a collaboration between Marquee Barber, other MPH students and local elementary schools to engage children and their parents in a community mobilization focused on increasing access to fresh vegetables and fruits. The ultimate goal is to give families healthier choices and to combat the high rates of childhood obesity and diabetes among minority families.

The Birthing Project Resource Room led by our College of Science and Health student Geneva Boyce increases access to resources for proper childcare for adolescent parents, and educates the community on safer sex practices and STI reduction through peer-based health education.

We will make it possible to re-launch our Physician Assistant and expand our Family Nurse Practitioner program. These graduates are primary care extenders, increasing our reach in our community, in communities across the country and around the world as well.

And speaking of the difference we are making around the world, we will make it possible for our students to continue to engage in mission-oriented work wherever it is needed. This year, the School of Nursing Global Health Initiative went to Ghana and the Philippines, where our students passed on their knowledge—training student nurses and health professionals on universal precautions and providing primary education about cholera. Our students conducted more than 350 diabetes and blood pressure screenings in villages throughout that country.

I have to pause here to mention that a highlight for the students was providing two children with the gift of life—blood, purchased in the name of our namesake, Dr. Charles R. Drew. For those who don’t know, Dr. Drew was a pioneer in the field of blood transfusion and storage, these students’ work serves as a testimony to Dr. Drew and to the mission of the institution that carries his name.

Of course, while students are the primary focus of any educational institution, they are only one of the three legs that support CDU. The second leg, of course, is our faculty, who continue to win acclaim and recognition as some of the top researchers, practitioners and academics in their fields.

Dr. Shirley Evers-Manly, interim Dean of the Mervyn M. Dymally School of Nursing had a truly unbelievable year.

Not only was Dr. Evers-Manly one of 50 Legacy Leaders inducted in the UCSF Chapter of the International Nursing Honor Society’s inaugural Hall of Fame this summer, she was also invited to deliver a keynote address at the Association of Black Nursing Faculty’s annual conference.

Loretta Jones, an esteemed community faculty member in the College of Medicine, received the Ruth Roemer Social Justice Leader Award from the California Endowment. This award goes to a social justice advocate who has made a difference in advancing and protecting health in underserved communities or vulnerable populations, and whose work is replicable, sustainable, and scalable.
Professor Jones and her team also received the 2014 Team Science Award from the Association for Clinical and Translational Science and the American Federation for Medical Research on behalf of the Community Partners in Care Steering Council. This is a tremendous accomplishment for them, and for CDU. Previous Awardees have included the NIH Clinical Center, a biostatistical team at Cornell, and the NIH Undiagnosed Disease Program.
Dr. Rajan Singh, another esteemed CDU faculty member and researcher was recently awarded a four-year $1.1million grant from the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Aging. Dr. Singh will investigate the role of follistatin in regulating lipid and energy metabolism for therapeutic targeting of obesity and related metabolic diseases.

Our faculty instills in our students a commitment to excellence and a dedication to the mission at the heart of this institution.

When I talk about our trajectory towards institution excellence, I know it took more than a village to get us here. Wouldn’t be here without our faculty, our students and our alumni. It took some help from our supporters in Sacramento and our friends around Los Angeles. Without committed benefactors, we would not be here today.

But we also received a whole lot of support from our neighbors.  As many of you remember, this community is my community. I grew up in Central Los Angeles, and as a result I feel not only a responsibility but a genuine affinity for this area.

The third leg that keeps this university standing is, of course, the community that has—for 50 years now—built us, sustained us and gotten us to where we are today. 

I may be the president of this institution, but I am reminded every day that we are were founded by this community and given the responsibility to not only serve the disenfranchised and forgotten segments of society, but to be community builders ourselves.

Healthy communities are prosperous communities. They are communities where kids miss less school and achieve more. They are communities where the greatest number of people have the highest probability of success.

This is why we are here. This is our charge.

So I conclude with this.

Not long ago, our accreditation—and by extension our future as an institution—was very much in question. This year, our Continuing Medical Education program received a 5-year accreditation with commendation. In fact, each of our education programs are fully and maximally accredited. We are being recognized for excellence, and as we prepare for a February special visit from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, the body that grants accreditation to the University as a whole, we expect a similar result.

Thank you for being our community. Thank you for believing in us, and thank you for continuing to believe. Your support has taken us from the lowest lows to heights we could only imagine a few short years ago.

Thank you.



Isidra Person-Lynn,
Communications Specialist
323.563.5833 or 213.422.8707




About Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science
CDU is a private, nonprofit, nonsectarian, medical and health sciences institution. Located in the Watts-Willowbrook area of South Los Angeles, CDU has graduated more than 550 medical doctors, 2,700 post-graduate physicians, more than 1,200 physician assistants, 450 nurses and hundreds of other health professionals. CDU’s mission is to conduct education, research and clinical services in the context of community engagement to train health professionals who promote wellness, provide care with excellence and compassion, and transform the health of underserved communities. For more information, visit .


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