State budget designates one-time amount to fund four-year medical degree program at CDU
A historic moment occurred in the life of Charles Drew University of Medicine and Science with the institution’s receipt of $50 million to fund its own four-year medical degree program.
The allocation came courtesy of the California legislature, which earmarked the huge amount for the school in the state’s 2021-2022 budget and Governor Gavin Newsom signed off on the apportionment.
As a result, CDU will have 60 additional spots for Black and Latinx students pursuing a healthcare degree to complement the existing 28 slots that the university offers through its joint program with UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine. In addition to further diversifying the profession, the new medical program transforms the vision of the CDU’s founders and the community into a reality.
“This has been a dream of the people in South Los Angeles, probably going back in the early 1950s with the Charles R. Drew Medical Society advocating for a medical school in South L.A., ,” said Dr. David M. Carlisle, CDU president.
“Since our founding by leaders in the community like Lillian Mobley, Nolan Carter, Johnnie Tillman, and others, there has been a desire for this area to have a four-year medical degree program,” added Angela Minniefield, CDU senior vice president of Advancement and Operations.
“We are deeply appreciative of this support from Governor Newsom and the state legislature. With this funding, CDU aims to increase the number of Black medical graduates practicing in the State of California by almost 30% and the number of Latinx graduates by nearly 20%,” Carlisle noted.
“This will not only enhance our attractiveness and reputation as a health professions university, but it will also help us address our mission in a very direct way by providing us the additional resources and infrastructure necessary to train the health professionals who will address the medical needs of the communities where they live and work.”
The new medical degree program will begin in Fall 2023. To house the program, a new 100,000-square-feet building will be constructed in 2022. The facility will contain classrooms, virtual and standard anatomy laboratories, staff and faculty offices, as well as common spaces to support all students in the university’s three schools and colleges.
As expected, CDU staff expressed excitement about the independent four-year program and credited the school’s long-standing commitment to social justice and health equity for underserved populations.
“The university has a legacy of training very diverse health professionals. Over our 55-year history, we have been placing providers where they need to be and making sure that the complexion of the provider matches the complexion and culture of the community where they’re going to be,” said Minniefield.
“We made a case to the state legislature for investment in the university and the increased capacity of our university to launch a four-year medical degree program. The governor signing the budget that includes $50 million for the university is vote of confidence as well as a testament to our legacy of training Black and Brown providers for Los Angeles communities that are most under-resourced,” she shared.
Carlisle described the allocation as “an optimal alignment of all the various elements that occurred at this juncture.” One contributing factor was the report by the California Future Health Workforce Commission of 2019, of which he was a member, that called for CDU to “start planning for our own four-year medical education program he said.
Another reason for the funding, Carlisle believed, “is that all of the commissioners and many of the state policy makers recognized the university’s historic contributions to the diversification of the physician workforce and other health professions in California as well as our commitment to primary care and our demonstrated production in terms of getting people into underserved, under-resourced communities to provide health care.”
A report by the California Wellness Foundation, which validates Carlisle’s comment, estimated that one-third of all minority physicians practicing in Los Angeles County are graduates of the CDU medical schools. Since its founding in 1966, the university has graduated in excess of 600 physicians, 1,270 physician assistants and 1,700 other health professionals. Also, more than 1,400 professionals have earned degrees at CDU’s Mervyn M. Dymally School of Nursing since it opened in 2010.
The president’s passion for providing medical professionals and resources to disadvantaged populations is only matched by his deep humility in serving as the chief executive for CDU.
“It’s just an honor for me to be in this role and I want to do everything I can to make the university stronger, bigger and better,” insisted Carlisle, “so that we can be more effective in addressing the healthcare needs of South Los Angeles.”
Sentinel Managing Editor Brandon I. Brooks contributed to this report.