The Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science has received preliminary approval from accreditation officials to begin accepting applications for its own medical school program.
University officials hope to open applications for the first medical class by the first week of November, aiming to have a class of 60 students entering the program next summer.
Historically black Willowbrook University has received confirmation of preliminary accreditation of its medical school program from the Liaison Committee on Medical Education, the primary approving authorities. The process took five years.
“It’s a really big deal,” Dr. Deborah Prothrow-Stith, dean of the CDU College of Medicine and professor of internal medicine, said in an interview. She said the creation of the medical program is “our statement of commitment to this community.”
The announcement comes at a precarious time for the medical profession as the United States faces a shortage of doctors and a long-standing shortage of people of color entering the medical field. Industry-wide burnout amid the COVID-19 pandemic and incidences of violent threats against healthcare professionals are also contributing to the shortage.
The Assn. of American Medical Colleges said in a report last year that it estimated the United States could experience a shortage of 37,800 to 124,000 doctors by 2034, with significant gaps with primary care.
Since its opening 56 years ago, Charles R. Drew University has graduated more than 600 physicians, 1,225 physician assistants, and nearly 1,600 other healthcare professionals. It has also trained over 2,700 medical specialists through its various sponsored residency programs. Its nursing school has graduated more than 1,300 professional nurses, including more than 950 family nurse practitioners.
The only other historically black colleges and universities to have a medical program are Morehouse College in Atlanta, Meharry Medical College in Nashville, and Howard University in Washington, DC.
The school currently has a partnership with UCLA in which 28 students enroll in a four-year medical training program and work with both schools to train to become doctors.
Charles R. Drew University offers more than 20 degree and certificate programs, but the medical degree program is completed by UCLA. Students currently complete two years with UCLA and two years with Charles Drew University and earn a medical degree through the joint program.
The university will continue to offer students the opportunity to graduate through the joint program. Students can separately choose to take only Charles Drew University’s four-year medical degree program if they wish.
More than 80% of students at Charles R. Drew University are from communities of color and more than 71% of faculty on campus are people of color, according to the college’s website.
As the university prepares to launch its own medical degree program, it is a chance to create a program grounded in social justice, research, global health, health policy and continuing to be rooted in the community, Prothrow-Stith said.
The goal of the program is to develop physicians and “leaders who understand the need for system change and equity in health care, who understand the social determinants of health and not only work to provide care for individuals, but view the community as part of its responsibility as good,” Prothrow-Stith said.
Once the university graduates the first class of medical graduates, it will be eligible for full accreditation.
Once medical schools receive full accreditation, they do not have to go through the Liaison Committee on Medical Education reaccreditation process for nearly a decade. said Prothrow-Stith. LCME officials met with more than 80 people during a three-day visit to the school in July.
The university also received $50 million from California for a medical school building that will open in 2025.
“We have naming opportunities,” Prothrow-Stith said of the new building. “We hope to name our medical school after a significant gift.”
Officials at Charles R. Drew University went through a rigorous, years-long—and multimillion-dollar—process to prepare for accreditation, the culmination of a long-deferred dream.
The campus opened in 1966 and is named after an early to mid-20th century black physician who focused on blood banking and blood plasma storage and transfusion. He was also a distinguished surgeon and holder of a chair in surgery at Howard University.
Sylvia Drew Ivie, Drew’s daughter and senior special assistant to the university president for community affairs, said she was “thrilled to the toes” that the school was soon to open its application process. at the faculty of medicine.
She said the news is an achievement not only of the university’s hard work, but also of an ongoing commitment to serving South Los Angeles and providing the community resources it deserves.
“My dad would just be eager to get back into this life so he could be a part of it and train these students,” Ivie said. “He enjoyed training bright young minds to serve with excellence and compassion, and that was his greatest joy. And we also follow his dreams.
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