New opportunities ahead for Charles Drew University

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The new Martin Luther King Hospital in South L.A. is scheduled to open in three years. An independent board will run it, and contract with the University of California for physician services. Leadership at its former medical training partner, Charles Drew University, spoke with KPCC about new opportunities that may lie ahead.

When King-Drew Hospital closed three years ago, Charles Drew University lost more than 300 doctors-in-training. They had to find placements at other hospitals and Charles Drew ended its post-graduate residency training program. It was a financial blow to the institution – and, interim president Keith Norris says, a low blow to minority students.

“Of four historically black medical schools, we train 40 percent of the graduate pool," says Norris.

When the program disappeared, Norris says, so did the opportunity for many minority students to study specialized medicine – orthopedic surgery, for example, or ear, nose and throat. It usually takes connections to gain entry to those programs, especially at top universities.

Charles Drew University officials want to create new graduate programs that can attract money and students back into the institution. Norris isn’t ruling out a partnership with the new MLK hospital across the street when it opens in three years.

“The fact that the medical school at Charles Drew University is a regional satellite of UCLA is evidence of a strong, long-standing partnership between the two institutions," says Norris. "So, there is a foundation that could be built upon going forward.”

Norris says Charles Drew is also exploring possible partnerships with other hospitals. School officials are negotiating the university’s loan debt with financial partners and hoping to increase enrollment and research at its brand new nurse training facility.

University officials say the school’s books have been in the black for eight months. But it could take five years for Charles Drew University to become a self-sustaining institution.