South LA

Charles Drew University Becomes First Black Medical School in the West to Offer a Doctoral Degree

Students will now be able to complete their studies at the historic South Los Angeles University.

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Charles Drew University, in South Los Angeles, became the first historically Black university west of the Mississippi to offer a 4-year medical degree on Tuesday.

Excitement spread among the campus after today's news at the campus, located at 120th Street in South Los Angeles.

"We are all very excited. We were talking about it in the group chat, said Varunya Kattunga, a master’s student in biomedical science.

"I didn’t know that I would experience something like this in my lifetime," said Dr. Rasheed Ivey, a 2019 alumnus of Charles Drew University, after he heard the news about the school's preliminary accreditation to offer a four-year medical degree.

Dr. Deborah Prothrow-Stith, Dean of the College of Medicine, said, “It means we can accept applications. We will have a class of 60 in 2023.”

Born from the aftermath of the 1965 Watts riots, Charles Drew postgraduate medical school was established to fill the gap with health care workers in South Los Angeles. 

Its focus now will be to develop more Black and Latino doctors to practice in underserved areas. 

Dr. Dawn Wright made history as the first Black person to go to Challenger Deep, the deepest-known part of the seabed of Earth. Her dive took four hours and was about 10,919 meters below the surface, which is almost seven miles. Wright joins LX to share her experience and the inspiration behind the dive.

Allison Legget is a Drew medical student. Before Tuesday, if she or any of her classmates wanted to become doctors, they’d have to apply to a joint CDU/UCLA program or transfer to another university.  That's no longer the case.

“We need to create physician leaders that not only reflect the diverse and beautiful community they serve, but have and continue to show commitment to our community. Drew has and will continue to create those leaders,” said Legget.

Los Angeles County’s public health director Dr. Barbara Ferrer sees it as a game changer.

“This will be the place to center our efforts to change course and create equity and justice through the healthcare work that everyone here has been doing. It now can advance with this medical school,” said Ferrer. 

One of the main goals of the new MD program will be to benefit surrounding communities and serve as a model around the world.

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