We are committed to the Mission

We are committed to the Mission

May 17, 2009


 By Dr. Keith C. Norris
Office of the President, Charles Drew University

In charting the history of urban unrest in America, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. once said that a riot is “the language of the unheard.”

The founders of Charles R. Drew University, named in honor of a brilliant African-American physician, famous for his pioneering work in blood preservation, grappled with that very idea when they set out to establish a university in the wake of the 1965 Watts Rebellion.

They saw the creation of a medical school as a way to empower the poor to take greater control of their health—and their destinies.

With improved access to healthcare, we can put an end to the health disparities that have inflicted hardships in underserved communities.

That was the point four decades ago when Drew got its start. Today, we’re still fighting that same fight.

South Los Angeles remains one of the largest and most diverse urban pockets in the country. And no where is the need for trained physicians, health professionals and access to quality health care more acute. The rates of childhood obesity, cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, HIV/AIDS and infant mortality are all higher.

It is here in the persistent poverty, turmoil and disenfranchisement of South Los Angeles that Drew’s mission has flourished.
Since its founding, Charles Drew University has been a pioneer in health and education, turning out medical professionals who are committed to the mission of serving the most vulnerable.

 The university—the only dually designated Historically Black Graduate Institution and Hispanic Serving Health Professionals School in the country—has graduated over 550 medical doctors, 2,500 post-graduates physicians, more than 2,000 physician assistants and hundreds of other health professionals.

This year, the Class of 2009, one of the most successful in the university’s history, echoes the call to serve that has been voiced by previous generations.

 As the commencement speaker at this year’s graduation, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will launch this crop of new graduates into our future.

We will also honor Dr. LaSalle Leffall Jr., the first Black president of the American Cancer Society who, as a young surgery resident, studied under Dr. Charles R. Drew.

And just as he followed in the footsteps of Dr. Drew, I, a former student of Dr. Leffall Jr., followed in his.

That too is an important part of our mission—one generation helping the next as we turn out the best professionals to practice medicine and conduct world class research.

 That will be true at the Mervyn M. Dymally School of Nursing, built to help California overcome the worst nursing shortage in the country with a first class training program dedicated to providing care where it is needed.

It's also true at our Saturday Science Academy, which opens the world of science for young elementary, middle school and high school students.
Our mission is to train the next generation to make a difference. And, to paraphrase the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., we listen closely to the voices of those who are unheard.
Keith C. Norris, MD, FACP,  is the leading member of an executive team selected earlier this month by the university’s Board of Trustees to make up the Office of the President after the resignation of Susan A. Kelly, PhD, FAPS, the university’s former President and Chief Executive Officer, became effective on May 4.
Dr. Norris, the university’s executive vice president for Research and Health Affairs, heads the office of External Affairs. Ronald Edelstein, EdD, serves as Dean of Academic Affairs; and Elizabeth Garcia, Executive Vice President of Operations, leads the Office of Internal Operations. 
At Charles Drew University, Dr. Norris’ research interests focus on the prevention and early treatment of chronic kidney disease, with emphasis on improving outcomes for African American and Latino populations. Other areas include the role of vitamin D in chronic kidney disease, calcium management and end-state renal disease, and hypertension. He is currently a principal investigator on four National Institute of Health (NIH) grants and co-investigator on several others.
Earlier this year, Research!America honored Dr. Norris by naming him an “ambassador” for the nonprofit organization’s Paul G. Rogers Society for Global Health Research, which advocates for greater funding in research to fight diseases that disproportionately affect the world’s poorest nations.
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 over 550 medical doctors, 2,500 post-graduate physicians, more than 2,000 physician assistants and hundreds of other health professionals.  The only dually designated Historically Black Graduate Institution and Hispanic Serving Health Professions School in the U.S. CDU is recognized as a leader in health inequities and translational research, specifically with respect to heart disease, diabetes, cancer, mental health, and HIV/AIDS. The University is among the top 7% of National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded institutions and rated one of the top 50 private universities in research in the U.S.  Recently, the CDU/UCLA medical program was named the “best performer” in the University of California System with respect to producing outstanding underrepresented minority physicians. For more information, visit www.cdrewu.edu.   
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John L. Mitchell
Media Advisor at
Charles Drew University of Medicine & Science
Telephone: (323) 563-4981 or cell (323) 681-4225

1731 East 120th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90059
p 323 563 4987 ? f 323 563 5987        ?       w www.cdrewu.edu

Pioneering in Health and Education