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Struggling Drew University names David M. Carlisle new president

May 4, 2011 |  8:50 am


The struggling Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science has a new president-designate -- David M. Carlisle, who currently heads a California governmental agency.

The appointment of Carlisle, director of the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development, comes at a key time for the campus in Willowbrook, just south of Watts. Drew had been on the verge of failing as an institution, but appears to be on the mend after a wholesale change in leadership.

Carlisle, who is set to leave his state post June 1 and begin his new job July 1, said his most pressing immediate goals were to ensure the university regained full accreditation from the Western Assn. of Schools and Colleges, which put the campus on a two-year probation in 2009. He also said the university needed to continue improving its fiscal health.

"We want to do what we can, not only to sustain the institution financially, but to grow it," Carlisle said in an interview Monday. "We want to make sure we have programs that can grow, that can bring in students, that can meet the demand for the community," while also maintaining good relationships with the University of California and foundations, and attracting new donors.

Drew, established a year after the 1965 Watts riots to train minority physicians, has undergone crisis after crisis for a decade. It has been criticized for failing to have a "culture of accountability." Drew has yet to fully recovered after being forced in 2006 to shut its residency program to train new physicians, siphoning off a major revenue.

Dr. M. Roy Wilson, chairman of Drew's board of trustees, said the university had been boosted in recent months by a number of developments, including new financial support from the University of California and the California Endowment, enrollment growth at its newly-minted nursing school, successful renegotiations on debt payments, and positive news on its bid to regain full academic accreditation.

Wilson said he thought it was no longer a stretch to imagine the day when Drew could restore its residency programs. Wilson talked of not only having residency programs at a planned-for Martin Luther King Jr. Hospital across the street, but also at other hospitals, such as with the Veterans Administration  and Kaiser-Permanente.

"It's an opportunity for [Drew] to come back in a much stronger way," said Wilson, formerly the chancellor of the University of Colorado, Denver. "A year ago, we couldn't even have this conversation. The educational programs were crumbling. Now we're in a situation where that's all being straightened out."

Drew currently educates 422 students. In addition to 115 students in its medical school and 97 in its nursing school, the campus also has 210 people enrolled in its College of Science and Health, which, among other programs, offers two-year associate's degrees in radiology technology and health information technology, four-year bachelor's degrees in life sciences and a master's in public health program.

Wilson declined to disclose Carlisle's salary. There is no term to Carlisle's contract, and Carlisle will serve at the pleasure of the board of trustees.

Carlisle will have the option of living in the university's residence in Ladera Heights or receive a $4,000 monthly living stipend, Wilson said.

The last permanent president to oversee Drew was Susan Kelly, a psychologist who was the first non-minority to lead Drew. Her three-year tenure ended with the faculty chafing against her top-down style and the university on accreditation probation.


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-- Rong-Gong Lin II

Photo: Students in the Charles Drew University Saturday Science Academy program get hands-on experience dissecting a cat cadaver. Credit: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times