Welcome to the Alumni Spotlight of the Charles R. Drew University, a beacon of inspiration where the brilliance of our alumni shines through the stories of their achievements. Here, we celebrate the legacies of graduates who have carried the torch of excellence beyond our campus, illuminating the fields of medicine, science, and community service.
Each profile is a mosaic of ambition, dedication, and innovation, reflecting the diverse tapestry of our esteemed alumni community. Join us as we delve into the narratives of these distinguished individuals who not only bear the name of our revered institution but also personify the transformative power of education in making a profound impact on the world.
President and CEO, The Black Aids Institute Master of Public Health Program, 2011
Why did you choose to study at CDU?
“After being at UC Berkeley, which was a predominately white institution and studying public health, I wanted to study this field with people of color and CDU was the best option for that.”
How has CDU helped your career?
“CDU has allowed me to use real world applications and theories in my current work. My professors were very knowledgeable on challenges and opportunities that come with working with people of color. CDU has led me to vast community resources. My professors were important mentors, especially Dr. Nina Harawa, who was my thesis advisor.”
As the new President and CEO of the Black Aids Institute, what are the new initiative /plans you have for the organization?
“My vision for the Black AIDS Institute of tomorrow is an organization that is deeply entrenched in the community, providing services at all points of the care continuum along with a well-respected research, policy, mobilization, and capacity building portfolio that is uniquely and unapologetically Black. On the horizon are innovative programming targeting Black women including a Black women and PREP campaign (launched last year) that highlights the utilization of this and new biomedical interventions; and Black women ambassadors. Also, the organization will focus more on intersectional issues such as race, homophobia, and poverty, so folks may be able to access new tools, and reduce barriers to utilization of new tools.”
What advice do you have for current CDU students?
“My advice to current CDU students is to figure out what makes you passionate and find supporters and mentors to guide you through your career path, and find opportunities to practice your skills.”
What is your favorite mantra/quote to live by?
“There’s a quote by Angela Davis, ‘If they take you in the morning, they will be coming for us that night’ which speaks to how our fates are intertwined and how we have to advocate for one another.”
Yvorn Aswad, MD
Charles R. Drew/UCLA Medical Education Program
College of Medicine
“‘Bring that college home’ were the parting words given by my high school dean to our graduating class. I have since been making that true. In my time as a ‘Drewin’, I have further crystalized my interest in eradicating health disparities, particularly as they relate to the mental health of vulnerable youth. Understanding how adverse childhood experiences (dubbed ACEs) have such broad impacts on the health of a person, I became particularly interested in ways to provide effective early intervention for children. I collaborated with the UCLA Justice Work Group (a part of the larger University of California Consortium for Health and Justice) to create educational and life skills workshops for youth involved in the criminal justice system. I then became a researcher to understand the health needs and gaps in coverage for youth in the juvenile justice system. Now as a medical student graduate, I will be in residency training in combined pediatrics and child and adolescent psychiatry at Brown University, so that I can become a truly comprehensive physician for vulnerable children.”
Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Science
College of Science and Health
“Charles R. Drew University has molded me into being the person I am today. This University accepted me with open arms in 2016, and continued showering me with love, affection, education and strength consistently. I have had different roles here, but my favorite thus far has been the role of being a student leader and advocate. My speeches were never micromanaged, or corrected in order to fill a political agenda, I was allowed to be exactly who I am, and just the way I am. Growing up in a semi-conservative Muslim family from India, and being raised in Los Angeles definitely has its complications. There are different questions waiting to be answered, one of the biggest ones referring to belonging. I never really fit in anywhere before Drew, I was always to much or not enough. But, at Drew I was accepted, I was nurtured and most of all people believed in me. During my years here I found my passion which has consolidated into street medicine, globally. I always say this: CDU is a lifestyle not a temporary fix. I am proud to be, and have been a part of the future, which is the mission of Drew.”
Mark Naval, MS
Master of Health Science, Physician Assistant
College of Science and Health
“While researching schools to attend, you as a student need to take into account multiple things. Location, reputation and cost are only a few among many, however I feel like the most attractive characteristic of this university is the community involvement. I would love to say that I only stumbled across Charles R. Drew University when applying, but to be quite honest it has always been my first choice. I believe it was Aristotle who gave us the quote. ‘There is only one way to avoid criticism: do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.” I must admit that CDU has not disappointed. If you ask anyone who is currently attending this university today, most would agree that we are not the kind of students who stay under the radar to avoid criticism. Most of the programs here are always planning or attending events within the community. Growing up in Los Angeles, I’ve always been attracted to the fact that even a small group of people can make a difference. Most people don’t realize that influence has a ripple effect. If one person can make a difference in war, one person can make a difference in their community.
My experience at CDU has been nothing but memorable, from the medicine I’ve learned within my program to the people I can say that I’ve made friends with. Although at one point in our life I know we will go on our separate ways, I know the camaraderie and the memories will remain, and for that I am thankful.”
Jan Tuzon, MSN
Master of Science in Nursing – Family Nurse Practitioner Program
School of Nursing
“An acclaimed American poet and activist- Maya Angelou, once said, ‘You can’t really know where you’re going until you know where you’ve been.’ Coming from an immigrant family, my Filipino parents not only inspired me to be proud of our own heritage and be comfortable with my own skin. But they also reminded me to always look back on the struggles we had to endure and persons who stayed with us in our pursuit to live what many call the American Dream. According to them, if I knew where I came from, there are absolutely no limitations, no boundaries to where I can go. As I look back and reflect on the milestones that I have triumphed during my time at CDU, I will continue to remain focused on my goal and purpose in order to serve humanity with utmost faith and dedication.
On behalf of the graduating class of 2019, I would like to extend my sincerest gratitude to Charles R. Drew University and to everyone who has supported us in our journey and helped shape our lives impermeably and forever.”