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New President Vows to Expand Drew University's Ambitions

October 14, 2006|John Balzar | Times Staff Writer

With a show of support from African American politicians and the University of California, a new president was installed Friday at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science.

Susan Kelly, the new president, vowed to expand the ambitions of the traditionally black institution and maintain its goal of training doctors and nurses to serve the disadvantaged -- notwithstanding the administrative collapse and planned downsizing across the street at the school's sister institution, Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center.

Kelly, a native of Australia, has actually been on the job since May 1. Friday's swearing in, under a tent in a parking lot equidistant from the university and the hospital, was a combination of belated ceremony and crisis pep rally.

Both the hospital and the university have served the larger Watts and Willowbrook neighborhoods of South Los Angeles since just after the riots of 1965, although plans for a medical school for the area go back further.

Today, about 100 medical students are enrolled at the school, spending their first two years studying at UCLA and then finishing at Drew. In addition, the university maintains residency programs for physicians and a relatively large array of research projects. Drew also provides professional training for nurses and is home to a "pipeline" elementary school, middle school and high school.

Kelly, the first woman and the first white person to lead the university, ruled out any retrenchment that would parallel the proposed reductions at King/Drew.

"I've never seen an institution that shrank its way to glory," she told an enthusiastic audience of 500.

The most urgent challenge is identifying a new hospital to accept Drew's residents in light of regulators' announcement that they would pull King/Drew's federal funding at the end of the year, a development that plunged the medical center into crisis.

Kelly sketched out a new direction for the school that includes expansion into a four-year medical college with a correspondingly bigger student body, while at the same time reducing the number of resident physicians and programs.

She pledged to finally break ground on two new buildings, and to underscore her momentum she finished the day with a scheduled $200-a-person fundraising dinner for Drew programs.

It's time, she said, for the university's supporters to stand up, speak up and pay up.

Among those sharing the stage with Kelly and pledging support were former U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher, county Supervisor Yvonne Brathwaite Burke, Assemblyman and incoming Assembly Health Committee Chairman Mervyn M. Dymally (D-Los Angeles) and UC Executive Vice Provost Wyatt "Rory" Hume.

"It's amazing. She's shooting high. It's exciting to see," said Duane Dillman, a Westside and Cerritos psychotherapist who was the university's first director of continuing medical education.

"What she's doing is what the community needs to fulfill its dreams," agreed Ted Friedman, an associate professor of medicine and chief of the university's endocrinology division.

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