For Immediate Release       
Friday, December 18, 2009


A Holiday Message

Dear CDU family,

Each year, around Christmas time, we see the hope for the future in the eyes of the children who show up in our lobby for “Project Santa Claus.” It’s such a joy to see the CDU family turn out in a concerted effort to lift the spirits of neighborhood children in need. Of course, this year was particularly gratifying, knowing that these are hard times and parents are hard pressed to come up with money to purchase gifts for their children.

Christmas is often described as a time of giving. We say it so much that it makes you wonder what goes on during the rest of the year. Of course, we know that giving is not just an end-of-the-year tradition. Here at Charles Drew University it’s part of our mission, synonymous with the commitment to serve the underserved.

Just ask any of the many volunteers why they showed up to paint faces, serve hotdogs and hand out gifts, and they will tell you it wasn’t just because it’s Christmas. They’re not just “giving back” because it’s Christmas time. They give because that is what we do. In the words of Khalil Gibran “Generosity is giving more than one has, Pride is taking less than one needs.”

Now, this past year has been tough. And like many institutions, we have made some choices that fly in the face of the spirit of giving. We have had to make cuts. Hopefully, these decisions will help guide us along the path to an ultimate goal—that of creating a world class institution that is compliant, self sustaining and true to its mission and values.

“Difficult steps” is how President Obama described some of the tough choices he has had to make during his first year.

“From the moment I was sworn into office, we have taken a number of difficult steps to end this economic crisis,” President Obama said. “We didn’t take them because they were popular or gratifying. They weren’t. We took these steps because they were necessary.”

Similarly, tough choices were needed for the dream of Charles Drew University to survive.

The task we face is not an easy one. South Los Angeles remains one of the largest and most diverse urban, underserved communities in the nation. Nowhere else in the United States is the need for trained physicians, health professionals and access to quality care more acute.

But amidst the persistent poverty, turmoil and disenfranchisement, Charles Drew University remains a beacon of hope, a symbol of possibilities, and—despite the economic problems—a model of progress in this community and for the nation.

Our mission is to graduate students prepared and dedicated to improve the health of the residents of South Los Angeles and communities like it. But to pursue our mission there are some hurdles we must overcome. I want to thank everyone for their diligence in helping to make sure that we are on schedule and making systematic progress in completing the WASC recommendations by spring 2011.

As a small institution, we believe in the importance of creating partnerships to help solve big problems. Partnerships are also about giving. A historic new partnership between the County of Los Angeles and the UC Board of Regents is bringing back Martin Luther King Jr. Hospital. The new hospital will be a catalyst for revitalizing the community; it will be part of the community and part of our future.

Finally, I want thank everyone for their steadfast commitment to the guiding principle that community outreach keeps us well-grounded in the goal of turning out caring health professionals and developing pioneering research. It has been my privilege to lead CDU over the last few months. I want to personally thank our students, staff, faculty, community and stakeholders for their support and guidance. While this has been one of the most challenging economic times in our institution’s and our nation’s history, the future looks bright—very bright.

Happy Holidays!

  Keith Norris, M.D.
Interim President Charles Drew University

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