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October 12, 2016

2016 State of the University Address

Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science
Delivered by
President and CEO Dr. David M. Carlisle
October 12, 2016


“Because You Believed: CDU’s Growth for Tomorrow”

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

A year ago, I opened this address referencing the revolt in this community fifty years before, and I discussed at length, the rebuilding of the community that included the founding of this University.

I tied that to our own rebuilding process here at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science, and closed with a reference to the McCone Report, commissioned in the wake of the Watts Revolt and titled with a poignant question: Violence in the City: An End or a Beginning? The answer, I said, was clear.

For each of the past four years, I have reported back to you on the State of the University’s rebuilding: a process that, in many ways, mirrored the rebuilding of our community in South Los Angeles, and a process that, fifty years ago, included the founding of this University.

For each of the past four years, I’ve asked you to believe in CDU, and you have believed.

Today, I am raising the stakes.

Today, I’m not here to tell you a new story—in our fiftieth year, we remain keenly focused on the reason we were founded in the first place—but I want to begin to read from a new chapter.  I believe we have completed the rebuilding of Charles R. Drew University. We are sitting on a more solid foundation than perhaps at any time in our history. The State of our University is not only strong, it is poised for growth beyond anything we could have imagined just five years ago.

I am asking you to help CDU grow today.

Our rebuilding would not have been possible without all of your efforts. Many of you have been—and I hope continue to be— generous in ensuring that we have had the resources we needed to get to where we are today. We are now a proud, student-centered university, making real strides toward our vision of a world without health disparities.

The resources you provided were the raw materials we used to rebuild this institution, to rise from a dark time, to bring light to this community, and to a flickering flame when the state of our university was not what it is now.  To get to where we are today required physical resources, human resources and financial resources…and the spiritual resources that flowed from each and every one of you - your belief in CDU.

But those of you who were here a year ago may remember another resource that was identified as critical at our founding and remains so today. More than any other, this resource is the reason CDU sits in this community today.

The Watts Revolt was the end of decades of neglect, some benign and less so.  The end of a time when this community would be denied basic human dignity, of a time when this community would be denied equality of opportunity—which even the McCone Commission Report, forward-looking in many respects, referred to as a privilege—and the end of a time when this community would be denied Education:OURfundamental resource. A statement referred to in the McCone Commission Report.

A year after the McCone report, the Charles R. Drew Post-graduate Medical School opened its doors. Fifty years later, we are focused on how best to not only allocate, but to increase the supply of our fundamental resource. We are committed to doing this on two fronts: we will continue our efforts at improving health outcomes in  our community around our campus, and we will further expand the academic programs that prepare our students to bring health and wellness to underserved communities around Los Angeles County, California, the United States, and indeed, the world.

To prepare for this growth we have, since we last gathered, trained our energies on a strategic planning process to ensure we preserve the progress we have made.

We began with what we knew:

We knew that America is becoming more diverse, and that to avoid the mistakes of the past, we must also diversify the health professions education pipeline. We need more physicians, more nurses, and more researchers from those populations of color who are under-represented in the health professions in order to provide culturally competent, compassionate, and excellent care in under-served and under-resourced communities all across America.

We knew the Affordable Care Act will continue to increase the need for primary care physicians who are able to help patients navigate the American healthcare system for the first time.

And we knew that communities that look like this one will continue to face shortages of health care professionals for the foreseeable future, unless we train them ourselves.
Everything we knew at the start of our strategic planning process pointed in a single direction, which is why—if you look at the cover page of today’s program —you see a compass.

Everything pointed to one thing, our need to grow, to expand our programs, to increase our enrollment, and to apply education—our fundamental resource—in new ways.

As part of our planning process, we reexamined our Mission and Vision statements, as well as the core Values that guide all of our operations. We identified six key core values that will drive every decision we make moving forward and keep us on track as we grow: Community, Leadership, Excellence, Diversity, Integrity and Compassion.

We put our commitment to social justice front and center in our University’s Mission statement—right there with heath equity for underserved populations.  We reaffirmed our commitment to a world without health disparities and we set out the ways in which we would achieve that goal through outstanding education, research, clinical service and community engagement.

On August 22nd CDU celebrated its 50th anniversary. Fifty years after our founding, we have reaffirmed our commitment to the reason we are here in the first place: to apply education, to apply our fundamental resource for the betterment of, and in partnership with, the communities in which we live.

Today, I am proud to stand here and tell you that our students, faculty and staff are living our values and our mission. I’d like to share just a few stories from the past year to demonstrate their commitment.

As we work to recruit the cream of the crop of students from under-served and under-resourced communities and under-represented populations into the health professions—and into CDU—we are constantly looking for new ways to show those students that a health career is possible, and to show them the pathways that will lead them here.

Shortly after I delivered last year’s State of the University address, Governor Brown signed AB 25, authored by Assembly Member Mike Gipson, which, once again, made CDU students eligible for participation for Cal Grants awards from the California Student Aid Commission. I want to personally thank Assembly Member Gipson and his staff, and Senator Hall for their hard work in making sure students have every opportunity to receive post-secondary education.

To ensure our student body remains tied to this community, and to its genesis, CDU signed a new agreement with the LA Unified School South District creating a seamless admissions program for local high school students who meet our admissions requirements. We signed similar agreements with Verbum Dei High School and West Los Angeles College.  These, and other pending partnerships, complement pipeline programs, including the high school research programs — STEP UP and Project STRIDE. For the fifth year, CDU hosted 13 students, who were matched with experienced research mentors for eight-week projects in their areas of interest.  As in years past, these high school research programs were the first exposure many of these students had to scientific research, and as they succeeded, we hope we have exposed them to a career in the health professions that they may not have known was within reach.

It’s no secret that our students often come from backgrounds that may have left them overlooked by larger schools. But it is our responsibility to look beyond the traditional measures of student success. They may not come from the “best” high schools. They may not have had access to a full suite of AP classes. But we know, when they get to CDU, we have created an environment where they can excel.

And excel they do.

That’s why we were proud to induct 23 new students and 2 faculty into the Lambda Nu National Honor Society for radiologic and imaging sciences this year. Congratulations.

Another 40 students in our nursing degree programs were accepted into the Mervyn M. Dymally Honor Society of Nursing.

That’s why the 2015 recipient of the Victor Grifols Roura Scholarship—a prestigious scholarship awarded by the Board of Directors for the National Medical Fellowships to a student interested in hematology—was CDU’s own third-year, College of Medicine student Richard Morgan.

And why two of our Family Nurse Practitioner students—Mark Gebala and Cathy Staats—received Advanced Practice Scholarships from the California Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development (my former department) for their agreement to practice in a medically underserved community for 24 months upon their graduation—carrying CDU’s mission with them.

Of course, our students excel—in part—because they are surrounded by faculty who model excellence.

Faculty like Professor Jorge Artaza, who was awarded the 2015 UK Society of Endocrinology’s Journal of Molecular Endocrinology Award;

And yesterday, I learned from Professor Dee Fleming that she received grant funding in the amount of half million dollars in support of the University’s STEP UP program.

Or Professor Cynthia Davis, who received the prestigious Ruth Roemer Award from the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health;

Or Dr. Wilbert Jordan, founder and director of the OASIS clinic, who received the NAACP’s 2016 Humanitarian of the Year award.

And Professor Loretta Jones who was honored at the United Nations.

Five years ago, we were struggling to even survive. It was far from a given that we would even survive to celebrate our fiftieth anniversary.

But with our recent success with WASC reaccreditation, our newfound financial stability and stable executive leadership; with that success growth is no longer a dream, it is an imperative, an obligation to the community we serve.

In many ways, we spent the past several years putting the pieces in place to ensure we grow smartly and prudently. That continued this past year with the appointment of four new deans to lead us into the future:

  • Dr. Deborah Prothrow-Stith as Dean of the College of Medicine;
  • Dr. Hector Balcazar as Dean of the College of Science and Health;
  • Dr. Margaret Avila as Dean of the Mervyn M. Dymally School of Nursing; and
  • Dr. Jinny Oh as the University’s new Dean of Student Services.

We also enlisted Mr. Carl McLaney to serve as our Vice President of Finance and Chief Business Officer. Our continued financial strength is at the cornerstone of our ability to grow, and I am thankful to have Carl to keep us on the right path.

Of course, I would be remiss to not acknowledge the entire staff of CDU.  Every day, our employees give their best to make CDU the best it can be. I wish to thank each of you and tell you how much you are appreciated for the endless hours of service you give to our university.  Your dedication is vital to our success.  

Indeed, at each State of the University address, I acknowledge the University’s Staff Member of the Year.  Today, I am proud to introduce the recipient of the 2015 award, Mr. Armando Estrada, | Director, Risk Management, Campus Safety & Security, Facilities, Maintenance.

For seven months, our strategic planning committee worked to develop eight specific themes to guide our growth. Mindful of where we came from, these themes form a prudent plan to transform CDU from a small school on the rise to a comprehensive, midsize health professions and sciences university of excellence.

One giant step in this transformation is the re-establishment of our College of Medicine’s Graduate Medical Education residency programs. We have submitted our application to the American College of Graduate Medical Education to re-open our programs and hope to receive accreditation in the very near future. This was our founding role and every year that we do not train residents, communities like ours suffer.

We also hope to grow our student body to a total of at least 2,000 undergraduate and graduate students in the next five years, from our current enrollment of about 600.

Some of this growth will come as we add programs, and increase the number of students pursuing degrees in each of our schools. For example, this year CDU implemented baccalaureate and masters programs in biomedical science, as well as our Masters of Health Science Physician Assistant degree program, which is already ahead of last year’s pace of 2,700 applications for 26 positions.

But adding courses of study will not be sufficient to get us to our goals.

To do that, and to complete our other growth plans, we will have to expand and enhance the University’s resources and campus infrastructure. Our current physical plant will support approximately 1,000 students. In order to meet our goals, we will need to expand the campus’ physical capacity with new real estate, buildings and satellite or affiliate facilities, and redesign the campus landscape such that it provides an attractive learning space for our students and serve as a beacon of hope and pride to the surrounding community.

In the coming year, we will complete a campus master plan that addresses our need for student residences and an on-campus wellness center, as well as a plan for an expanded campus that deepens our ties to—and does not create tension with—our neighbors in Watts and South Los Angeles.

We will also need to increase unrestricted funding for student scholarships, instructional programs and academic and student support services. This is, perhaps, the most critical piece of the growth puzzle, and I want to be very clear about it. We will not sacrifice our mission or our values in pursuit of growth or prestige. We will continue our commitment to cultivating diverse health professional leaders who are dedicated to social justice and health equity for underserved populations. But to do that, we will need additional funds to make Education—our fundamental resource—available to smart kids from the communities we serve who want to be a part of redefining the model of care in this country.

I just mentioned some of the personnel we have recruited to meet the demands of a larger campus and greater enrollment, but more will be needed.  We will need to build operational bridges within and across academic and business units of the university to create a cohesive university and avoid growing pains. We will need to recruit qualified faculty and staff to meet our enrollment increase and expand our IT infrastructure so that it can support a much larger campus. My team—including another new hire, Sylvia Drew Ivie, special assistant to the president for Community Affairs —will be watching the expansion process very carefully to be sure it is managed within our capacity and working to meet the needs of the community as well.

Now, speaking of that capacity. As I’m sure you expect by now, you will be hearing from our team as we embark upon a campaign to diversify and increase our funding sources. I have already asked you to help us grow, just as you have helped us rebuild.

Some of you have already stepped up in ways that defied my expectations.

Today I want to acknowledge the exceptional generosity of Sue and Bill Gross, who committed an additional investment of $250,000 to endow scholarships for students in our School of Nursing at last year’s commencement. I also want to thank Mr. Fred Ali, president of the Weingart Foundation, for providing core operating support to promote the growth of the university, and Kibebe Gizaw, president of the McMillan Stewart foundation, for providing scholarships to CDU students.

I also want to thank Dr. Fred Parrott for a gift of $100,000 to open a matching fund to support our medical students and Dr. Harding Young for generously sharing his house to host a tremendously successful alumni reception in support of student scholarships.

You hear a common theme. Well, I’m not done!

Kaiser Permanente has also made a significant contribution to our growth, with a recent award of one million dollars to provide student scholarships over a 3-year period.

Just eleven days ago we successfully brought back Jazz at Drew after an 8-year absence with the support of Dignity Health as the presenting sponsor.

As our university has grown larger and stronger, the number—and value—of grants has continued to grow. This year we were excited to be awarded a $12.6 million renewal of the CDU/UCLA Cancer Center Partnership.

We were also able to announce—just a week ago—that CDU faculty member Dr. Lola Ogunyemi secured a $1.95 million RO1 grant from the National Institutes of Health to study diabetic retinopathy, a leading cause of blindness in adults in the U.S.  We are most proud of Professor Ogunyemi, and this is the first RO1 grant awarded to CDU in several years.

For fifty years, we have done more with less. We have survived and, recently, we have begun to thrive. As I said at the outset of this address, we did so because of your support and investment. Because you believed in CDU. I hope you will continue to believe and that you continue to deem us worthy of your investment. Our students—and our communities—are relying on  all of us..

Through our growth, I believe we can become the leader in health disparities research—and elimination—in the United States. I believe it because it is written into our DNA as well as into our curriculum.

I do not believe there is another school in the country that trains health professionals quite the way we do, with a focus on five specific pillars: research, social justice, global-international exposure and experience, experiential education and health policy.

This is the CDU Advantage.

This is how we grow.

This is how we fulfill our mission.

Watching the political developments over the past year, I have constantly been reminded of our founding fifty years ago. In the aftermath of Watts Revolt, significant resources—including Education, our fundamental resource—came into South Los Angeles. This University was founded to ensure that the residents of this and other underserved, under-resourced, and under-represented communities would have access to health care that is high in quality and culturally competent. Yes. For fifty years, Charles R. Drew University has been at the forefront of a movement. Our founding was an early declaration that Black Lives Matter. And, we know and understand that with this legacy and the community that surrounds us—today I affirm that Black and Brown Lives Matter.  In fact, it is precisely why we are in the business of training and educating future health professionals to serve our communities.

We were lucky, in those early days to have Dr. M. Alfred Haynes—a visionary and pioneer in public health—as the second Dean of Charles R. Drew University. What many think of today when they envision public health—and the social determinants of health—Dr. Haynes was talking about from the time of our infancy. We cannot sell ourselves short on this fact. We cannot forget that we are more than participants in this conversation. We began this conversation.

Dr. Haynes passed away at the beginning of this year, but we intend to keep his legacy alive at the University he loved. In his honor, we will host a series of speakers—the Dr. M. Alfred Haynes Lecture Series on Public Health and Health Policy. These lectures will deal with the past, present and future of public health, recognizing—and continuing this institution’s role as a convener in the areas of public health and health policy.

So as you know, growth is not just about buildings, ladies and gentlemen. It is also about leadership on the issues we care most about.

Social justice and community engagement are part of our mission because affecting policy is just as critical to eliminating health disparities as training health professionals to work in areas where disparities exist.

That engagement was evident when we hosted Congresswoman Janice Hahn for an Alzheimer’s forum this past year, and when our HIV/AIDS Cluster coordinated a visit and presentation on campus by Ambassador Dr. Deborah L. Birx, the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator and U.S. Special Representative for Global Health Diplomacy.

Just as Dr. Haynes did throughout his life, CDU is leading the conversation and making a difference, whether those conversations occur in Los Angeles or Sacramento, in Washington or world-wide

When Chaim Weizmann, a scientist who became Israel’s first president, opened the first session of the Knesset in 1949, he said, “In this hour, a message of hope and good cheer goes forth from this place, from this sacred city, to all oppressed people and to all who are struggling for freedom and equality….If we have reached this point…there is hope for all those who wait for justice.”

This has been—and continues to be—our struggle as well. For what is it to envision a world without health disparities if not to envision a world with freedom, equality and justice.

I don’t want to be too political here, but I do feel an obligation to speak up about what is at stake next month:

Dignity and Respect.

Access to affordable care.

A national commitment preventative care and wellness programs.

That’s why we need CDU, now more than ever.

That’s why we need to grow, to become larger and stronger.

That’s why we need your help, your commitment, your resources.

That’s why we need you to continue to believe.

Because we can’t rely on the environment always tilting in our favor.

Because disparities will continue to persist unless we take action to eliminate them.

John McCone and the McCone Commission had it right. Education is our fundamental resource. But it cannot regenerate on its own.

Because you believed in CDU, we are here today, to meet the Commission’s challenge, to fulfill our obligation to higher education in the health professions and to affirm that yes, Education is our fundamental resource.

In the coming months, I look forward to connecting with you to discuss how you can walk with us on the path towards growth and expansion, which—to me—is the path to freedom, equality and justice.   

Please. Join me as we build and grow CDU for tomorrow.

Thank you.

David M. Carlisle, MD, PhD
President and CEO

Event Photos

To read the CDU State of the University Address 2016, click here to download.

CDU is a private, nonprofit, nonsectarian, minority-serving 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, 800 nurses and over a thousand other health professionals.
CDU is a private non-profit student centered University that is committed to cultivating diverse health professional leaders who are dedicated to social justice and health equity for underserved populations through outstanding education, research, clinical service, and community engagement. 

For more information, visit, and follow CDU on FacebookTwitter (@cdrewu), and Instagram (@charlesrdrewu).



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