California HBCU Building A First-Of-Its-Kind Medical School

The Association of American Medical Colleges reports that only 5 percent of doctors in the United States are Black.

via: CBS News

Renovations are underway for a new medical school building at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science in Willowbrook. University administration says it’s so much more than a new building. They say the launching of the new medical school this summer addresses the need for more doctors of color.

The university was founded one year after the 1965 Watts riots. In 1966, the Charles R. Drew Postgraduate Medical School was incorporated in California as a private, non-profit, educational institution to address the racial health disparities in America.

Fast forward, the university is still looking at racial disparities in the medical field and in October 2022, the school announced the launch of the University’s first independent four-year medical degree (MD) program. The university hailed it the first and only historically Black medical degree (MD) program west of the Mississippi.

Dr David Carlisle, CDU president and CEO says the school has already graduated hundreds of doctors through their joint program with UCLA, but having their own medical school has been a dream for decades.

Carlisle says he hopes the school’s new medical school will address the lack of private practice doctors in the immediate Watts/ Willowbrook community. The Association of American Medical Colleges report only 5 percent of doctors in the United States are Black.

“If you look around this community, if you drive around, do you see private practicing doctors, no. Do you see private practicing pharmacists, no, dentists, no. You certainly don’t see cosmetic plastic surgeons anywhere around here for example,” said Carlisle. “And the secret sauce here is taking students who grew up in this community, they are much more motivated to return and serve this community.”

A group of 60 new medical students are slated to attend beginning July 10 according to Dr. Arthur Gomez, CDU associate dean of medical education.

“Here we will be teaching them not only the science of medicine, but also how to advocate for policy change with a leadership experience,” said Gomez.

One student, 21-year-old junior Prince Lawrenz Hamlin, majoring in biomedical sciences, commutes three hours by bus and train from Palmdale to complete his undergrad studies at the university. Hamlin plans to move on to the university’s medicine program to pursue studies in cardiac surgery.

The university reports that students can apply to the new medical program through February 28, the school has already received 1,000 applicants.

CDU is also one of only four U.S. historically Black medical colleges and is a federally designated Historically Black Graduate Institution.

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