October 7, 2015  

2015 State of the University Address

Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science
Delivered by
President and CEO Dr. David M. Carlisle
October 7, 2015


Building a Better Tomorrow

Friends, faculty, students, alumni, Trustees, and guests:

For the past few years, I have used the occasion of my annual State of the University Address to update you on the progress of our rebuilding.

At last year’s address, I was able to report that, because you believed in CDU, our rebuilding had been a great success.

Today, I am here to tell you that, with our foundation as solid as any time in recent history, we continue to build a better tomorrow for our students, our community and—I hope—the world.

Fifty years ago this year, this community revolted.

Our neighbors, fed up with the conditions caused by decades of neglect revolted. They rose up and demanded to be seen and heard. They demanded solutions to the inequities and disparities that plagued this community and so many others.

They revolted to end the neglect. Rather than continue to wither, this community demanded a better tomorrow.

I have spoken before of how this University rose from the ashes of a broken city. But rather than the Phoenix—a bird who emerges, spreads its wings and flies to some far off place—what rose in the wake of the Watts Revolt were institutions that are tied to the community, inextricably linked to our neighbors and which spread their wings not to fly away, but to shield us while we grow stronger.

To address the disparities that existed in the provision of healthcare two new facilities were created: Martin Luther King Hospital and Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science.

And for the first time since 2007, our two institutions are once again serving this community. With the dedication of the new hospital, two months ago today, as well as our plans to expand our campus and to continue growing our enrollment, the State of this University as we prepare to celebrate our first 50 years is not just strong. We are thriving.

  • Our enrollment has grown.
  • Our financial outlook is stable.
  • And all of our programs are accredited.

In July, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges evaluated our accreditation, noting the significant progress we have made in a number of areas, including financial management, data management and governance.  We continued  our accreditation without a single citation and a total of nine commendations.

In August, the National Medical Association at its 113th Annual Convention and Scientific Assembly in Detroit, bestowed upon the University their 2015 Presidential Award., and at the same meeting one of our medical students, Ebony King, was awarded the NMA’s OB/GYN section scholarship.

And in September, the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant conducted a site visit for the Master of Health Science in Physician Assistant Studies. Having demonstrated preparedness in accordance with the accreditation standards, the Physician Assistant Program anticipates matriculating its inaugural class of 26 students (selected from over 2,000 applicants) in August 2016 pending initial provisional accreditation at the 2016 ARC-PA meeting in March. 

Our progress was further confirmed when the Brookings Institution named CDU as a “hidden gem,” ranking us third in the nation among schools providing the greatest value-added boost to alumni earning power anywhere in the nation.

Philanthropic and alumni support continues to grow, as well. We recently increased our 3-year fundraising goal to $9.5 million from our previous target of $8.3 million. Meeting that goal, which included more than $3.5 million for endowed scholarships, allowed us to provide students with more than $300,000 in direct aid this year. And, I am pleased to announce that just today we were notified that Mr. and Mrs. Bill and Sue Gross are increasing their nursing scholarship endowment from $1.5 million to $2 million! A $500,000 gift is in the mail!

We have completed a transformation of our own. We are no longer looking back or laboring under mistakes of the past. We are looking forward with a renewed commitment to being transformational. Toward a better tomorrow.

It is that commitment that is fueling our expansion of academic programs, with a particular emphasis on growing our undergraduate enrollment. The American Association of Medical Colleges released a report last month titled “Altering the Course: Black Males in Medicine,” in which the AAMC reported that the number of black males applying to and matriculating in MD-granting programs had actually declined since 1978.

As the nation prepares to experience a physician shortage of between 46,000 and 90,000 doctors, and as the population becomes more and more diverse, this is a trend that cannot continue.

But while the AAMC is rightfully calling attention to this crisis now, it is nothing new to us here at CDU. Training a diverse corps of physicians—a corps of health professionals —has been at our core since we were incorporated. It’s why we were born.

There are many reasons why health disparities exist today, but one of them is certainly a lack of diversity among those tasked with providing care to a diverse and varied population.

I firmly believe that expanding educational opportunity is central to addressing health disparities. I believe that CDU has an obligation, based on our history and inherent in our mission, to seek out and address the needs of students from a diverse set of backgrounds.

In the wake of the Watts Revolt, the McCone Commission examined not only the root causes of the unrest, but what could alleviate the conditions that led this community to rise up.

“Violence in the City,” the report was titled. “An End or a Beginning?”

In summation of his report to Governor Pat Brown, McCone wrote, “equality of opportunity, a privilege…sought and expected, proved more an illusion than a fact.” He reported that residents of South Los Angeles “entered the competitive life of the city with very real handicaps,” lacking “education, training and experience.”

This led to special attention being paid to one resource—one Fundamental Resource (to quote the Commission)central to alleviating the conditions that led our neighbors to revolt. That fundamental resource is education.

Creating access to higher education for students who are underrepresented and/or from under resourced communities is a core value of mine and a core value of this institution. It is central to who we are and to everything we do.

Our undergraduate expansion is one way for us to make that fundamental resource available to a greater number of students, and I believe it is a moral imperative.

President Obama echoed this sentiment when he acknowledged education not only as the pathway to opportunity, but as a prerequisite for success in the new economy. From early childhood development and K-12 instruction and post-secondary study—including technical training and community college programs.

It is my hope that we will embrace this imperative not only through our undergraduate expansion, but through every interaction between CDU and our community.

I also hope to create a pipeline of students who are underrepresented in higher education and are from underserved and under-resourced communities, yet will be the best-prepared cadre of applicants to health professions programs in the country.

This cannot be done without the support of our faculty and staff, so I must pause to commend the 229 CDU staff members and all of our faculty for their hard work and dedication to fulfilling the Mission, Vision, and Values of this University.  You are the engine that keeps the University moving. Every year an employee is awarded “Employee of the Year” for their exceptional work and service to the campus community.  I’m proud to introduce the 2014 Employee of the Year, Ms. Betty Bennett. 

I also note that expanding educational opportunity cannot be done without a strong core leadership team. Recruitment of institutional leadership has been a primary focus of our activities this year.

I want to acknowledge and introduce Dr. Steve Michael, who joins us as the new Executive Vice President of Academic Affairs and Provost of the Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science. Dr. Michael comes to us after five years as Provost of Arcadia College, where he was instrumental in establishing and growing their College of Life Sciences. I believe his insights into diversity in higher education and his commitment to serving under-represented communities through education will serve us well for years to come.

Next I want to introduce Dr. Sheldon Fields who joined the CDU family this past year as Dean of the Mervyn M. Dymally School of Nursing. Dr. Fields joined us from Florida International University in Miami. He has participated in more than $20 million of research projects focused on HIV prevention and treatment amongst Black men and funded by foundations, the National Institutes of Health and other government entities. We are enormously pleased to welcome Dr. Fields to our faculty.

Earlier this week, the University welcomed our new Vice President of Finance & Chief Business Officer, Mr. Carl McLaney.  Mr. McLaney joins CDU after serving as Deputy Director for the Cal Mortgage Loan Insurance division of the California Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development..   He brings to his position expertise in the areas of not-for-profit health facility management and finance, real estate, the development of housing and health facilities, as well as bond and credit enhancement financing. 

As some of you may know, our current strategic plan, adopted by the Board of Trustees in 2013 sunsets next year.

I am proud to report that, as we approach the end of our current Plan, the University has embarked upon a new strategic process that will chart our course into the future, and I am excited to have Provost Michael leading this effort.

The new plan will focus on the expansion of the University’s undergraduate programs, medical education, graduate medical education and campus facilities.

I have asked that the planning process be completed by the end of this calendar year—an aggressive and ambitious timeline, but one I am confident we will meet. I want to thank the faculty, staff, students, alumni and members of the community who have volunteered their time, energy and talent to shape the University’s strategic direction and define our priorities and goals.

CDU’s concerted effort to attract more undergraduate students has taken many forms this year. Internally, we have invested in admissions and financial aid, welcoming Rebecca Diaz as a new admissions counselor and Col. Lanae Herrera as our director of financial aid

But the pipeline cannot be filled merely from within these walls. For many young men and women in under-resourced communities, a health career is never even presented as an option. When you never see a physician who looks like you, you never know that you could be a physician.

We know our students share this commitment, not only through their decision to matriculate here, but through their evangelism on behalf of students from underrepresented communities. This past October, five Post-Baccalaureate Certificate students in Pre-Medicine— Derrick Delgado, Angel Martinez, Revecca Millan, Maria Rosales, and Miguel Ruiz—traveled to Denver to present a panel at the 28th Annual Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities Conference. Their panel, “Building Support for Latino/Latina Students in Medicine and Science” brought our message of expanded opportunity beyond our campus and put CDU on the national stage.

Some of you know about our Mission Maker Mini-Grants that allow our students to further the mission of this University to transform the health of underserved communities through education, research and clinical services in the context of community engagement.

Fourteen of our post-Baccalaureate students are using one of these grants to fill the pipeline. They have been engaging fourth and fifth graders at the George Washington Carver Elementary School, just two blocks from where we stand today, in a hands-on science curriculum.

The program opens the children’s eyes to STEM fields, and may even spark an interest in a career in medicine.

We are filling the pipeline through our engagement in two programs for high school students as well.

Through STEP-UP and Project STRIDE, students engage in real-life biomedical research projects, train with faculty in a laboratory setting and work to eliminate health disparities in Watts and beyond.

And we are looking to fill the pipeline with students who have already earned post-secondary degrees.

This year, we have worked closely with Dr. Francisco Rodriguez, chancellor of the Los Angeles Community College District, to offer admission to students who have recently completed their AS or AA degree programs. These are excellent students who may not have had the opportunity to attend a 4-year college directly after high school for any number of reasons, but who are interested in continuing their post-secondary education in a health related field.

Of course, one of the stark realities is that economics continues to be a barrier for many underrepresented students seeking entry to post-secondary education. Those of you who have attended this address in the past know that we have worked relentlessly to increase our capacity to provide aid to deserving students, and we have made great strides in this area.

For more than a year now, we have worked with Assembly Member Mike Gipson and Senator Isadore Hall, III to provide a process that would enable CDU to participate in the Cal Grant Program administered by the California Student Aid Commission.  Recent changes to the Cal Grant program adversely affected universities such as ours with small student cohorts of First Time, Full Time students, and the resulting loss of eligibility has meant a reduction in aid to our students of anywhere from $100-230,000.

Earlier this year, I testified in Sacramento about the importance of this bill to our diverse student body. Today, I am proud to tell you that Assembly Member Gibson’s AB25, which could restore that funding for our students is on Governor Brown’s desk and it is my hope that he will sign it very soon.

Increasing our enrollment—isn’t just about numbers. I believe our students are exceptional in the impact they begin to have on this community beginning the moment they arrive on our campus.

I’ve already spoken about one of our Mission Maker mini-grant projects, but our students continue to amaze me in the way they demonstrate what it means to be a private university with a very public mission.

Our MPH students assisted the Lillian Mobley Center’s Grandma’s Hands Birthing Center in their efforts to facilitate better birth outcomes for young mothers. In addition to ensuring that new parents had proper psycho-social support and parenting resources, our students used their grant to provide diapers and wipes to young mothers in need.

Through their work, our students were building a better tomorrow for our community’s most vulnerable young lives.

Other students in the College of Science and Health participated in Project Cardens, a pilot program that developed community gardens at two local elementary schools in areas with high rates of obesity and diabetes in children and adults.

Finally, I have to mention a source of great pride for us. Our CDU Mervyn M. Dymally School of Nursing students have been making an impact all over the world. Our students provided overnight care to athletes at the Special Olympics World Games Los Angeles 2015, volunteering their time and energy to ensure that the 6,500 athletes and 2,000 coaches from 165 countries were well cared for in our city. Nursing students also brought care to underserved communities in Ghana, Mexico and the Philippines, emphasizing that the mission of this school is truly global.

Of course, they are following the examples set by our tremendous faculty.

This summer, CDU’s own Professor Loretta Jones was honored at the United Nations Headquarters in New York as the recipient of the Diane Watson Community Service Award from We Care for Humanity as part of their Global Officials of Dignity Awards presentation. The organization recognized Professor Jones for her “outstanding and consistent contribution to our shared humanity by demonstrating selflessness, caring for the underserved, and [her] spirit of unity and integrity.”

Humanity, caring for the underserved and integrity. This is how we are building a better tomorrow at CDU.

Over the past 20 years, CDU has received more than half a billion dollars in NIH research grant funding, and our faculty has continued to publish pioneering research in health disparities, particularly with regard to Cancer, Cardiometabolic diseases and HIV/AIDS. Given our focus on serving the underserved, it should come as no surprise that our research is as likely to take place in community-based programs as it is in the lab. I would like to acknowledge the Vice President for Research and Health Affairs, Dr. Jay Vadgama, and acknowledge Dr. Vagama’s U54 Grant has been renewed by the National Cancer Institute, after receiving the best review score in the country, at $9,053,610 over the next five years. Congratulations, Jay.

Under the direction of Dr. Keosha Partlow, Director of the University’s Life Sciences Institute, CDU hosted two “Place Matters” seminars as a way of continuing to build out our research infrastructure.

The seminar series introduced faculty and students to the principles and practice of health disparities research focused on the health of inner city neighborhoods, including the social, political, economic, cultural and legal theories related to health disparities. This broad-based approach was meant to provide researchers with a deep foundation of knowledge as they delve into the factors that contribute to poor health outcomes. In doing so, we will be able to move from interventions that focus solely on individual treatment  to collaborative community-wide partnerships and initiatives that can begin responding to the root causes of health disparities.

I believe this approach is how we build a better tomorrow not just for our individual patients, but for entire communities—in Los Angeles and around the world.

I believe, in doing so, we link our future with our founding.

Fifty years later, we have answered Mr. McCone’s question. The Watts revolt was not an end, but a beginning.

Much has changed here in South Los Angeles. But much has stayed far too much the same. While we continue to build a better tomorrow in Los Angeles, our obligation extends much further. As we saw in Baltimore this year, neglected and underserved communities are still fighting to be seen and to be heard.

Going back through the McCone Commission’s report in preparation for this address, something stood out. A single carefully chosen word.

 “Education. OUR Fundamental Resource.”

Not a fundamental resource, our fundamental resource. There is a collective value implied in this choice of words. Education is not something to be hoarded in the ivory towers of academia, but to be shared widely. It can come from a university classroom or a community health center. Education becomes our fundamental resource only when it is shared.

Education is the difference between making equality of opportunity a fact and having it remain an illusion.

Education – Our Fundamental Resource.

This a mantra and a responsibility  WE MUST take on as a society—and one I am committing us to as a University.

On August 22 of next year, we will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science. As we enter our second half-century, we are as dedicated to our founding principles as we were in 1966.

We were established not only to train health professionals but also to train leaders.

We were charged with ensuring that those leaders not only improved health outcomes, but also believed in social justice.

We were entrusted with our fundamental resource, and instructed to share it so that we might transform communities.

None of that has changed.

I consider it both a great honor and a grave responsibility to serve as President at such an auspicious moment, and look forward to US building a better tomorrow.  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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A Private University with a Public Mission

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