Classes Begin at Only Historically Black Medical School on West Coast

Suzanne Potter | California News Service
Charles R. Drew University in South Los Angeles recently welcomed its inaugural class of medical students. Photo Credit: CDU Communications Department

Some 60 new medical students at Charles R. Drew University in South Los Angeles are making history just by starting classes at the first and only medical school at a historically Black institution west of the Mississippi.

The school has partnered with the University of California-Los Angeles to offer a medical degree for many years, but is now approved to offer its own program.

Dr. David M. Carlisle, president and CEO of the university, said social justice is woven into the curriculum.

“Specifically, to cultivate diverse health professional leaders, committed to health equity for under-resourced populations,” Carlisle outlined. “That is our mission.”

Last week, the nation celebrated Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and Historically Black Graduate Institutions like Charles R. Drew University, which was formed in 1966 in the wake of the Watts riots.

2020 study from UCLA found seven million Californians live in medically underserved communities, and by 2030, the state is expected to face a shortage of 4,100 primary care providers.

Carlisle emphasized he expects his students to make a big dent in the problem.

“Our students at least twice as likely, compared to average, to pursue family medicine as a primary care specialty,” Carlisle pointed out. “Our students are historically much more diverse than the national or State of California averages.”

He added the school draws many students from lower-income backgrounds. Compared to the national average, people who attend Charles R. Drew are more likely to have received a Pell Grant as an undergraduate.