Program aims to close health care gap in communities of color by training next generation of doctors

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Wednesday, August 4, 2021
SoCal program aims to close health care gap in communities of color
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There are a variety of factors limiting access to health care, especially in communities of color. One program is trying to meet that need and train the next generation of doctors in their communities.

SOUTH LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- There are a variety of factors limiting access to health care. For people in South Los Angeles, quite simply, location matters.

Dr. David Carlisle is the president and CEO of Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science in Watts-Willowbrook and points out, "You look around where we are now. And you don't see private practicing doctors, you don't see private practicing dentists, you don't see private pharmacies out there."

Since 1979, CDU has trained 28 medical students a year working with the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. That is about to change.

"We need to get bigger. And this is why we want to add 60 medical students per year through our new program," says Dr. Carlisle.

CDU's new, independent four-year medical education program will begin in the fall of 2023. To help make that possible, a $50 million allocation from the California State Legislature will help pay for a new 100 thousand square foot medical education building.

"It's not just an investment in Charles R. Drew University of medicine and science. It is an investment in this community, the South Los Angeles Community and it's an investment in trying to mitigate and reduce the healthcare disparities that plague this community and populations and communities like and around California," Dr. Carlisle says.

CDU's campus will double in size through development of a 10-acre site across the street that was formerly Lincoln Elementary. It's all part of the effort to increase the number of Black and Latino medical graduates in the health care workforce, like Dr. Rasheed Ivey who says, "I think the building in and of itself being there and what it will represent... you have kids absorbing this now, and that gives me chills to see how this can... how this is going to flourish in the community and I'm so excited to see it."

Several studies have shown minority patients, particularly Blacks, tend to prefer physicians of their own race. Given that 13% of the population is Black, but only 5% of the practicing doctors are, CDUs expansion plans might be the answer to improving health care for everyone.

"When people who are from the community who look like you come, they're a lot more likely to share things; they're a lot more likely to take the advice of a physician who looks like them," Dr. Ivey says.

Dr. Carlisle adds this new medical program could inspire kids around the country.

"There may be young people in East Oakland, who are looking at this and saying, aha, I will think about going to CDU one day so I can return to make my home better."

Along with construction already underway, CDU is transforming itself from a hidden gem to a beacon of opportunity for the community according to Dr. Carlisle.

"A student who is from those communities gets off to a head start because they know what they're pursuing firsthand."

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