Willowbrook, MLK

Moving toward completion: MLK Outpatient Center Gets Glassed In

  Wonderful progress continues to be made at the Martin Luther King Jr. Medical Center Campus. Construction of the new MLK outpatient center is more than 80% complete, and this short video shows workers installing the very  last pane of glass onto the façade of this beautiful new facility. More than 150 skilled construction workers are hard at work on the new building, putting in complex electrical wiring, finishing rooms and landscaping the grounds on the site. When it opens next year, the center will  far surpass what is typically expected in a “clinic”. Through approximately 70 specialty clinics and an urgent care center that will operate seven days a week, 16 hours per day, the outpatient center will provide a full range of primary and specialty services. The outpatient clinics will specialize in pediatric, obstetric and genecology services, as well as ophthalmology, orthopedics, maxillofacial and even neurosurgery treatment. The center also will have clinics for special populations, including pediatric foster children and people with HIV/AIDS.   Also, an ambulatory surgery center will offer elective outpatient surgical procedures, rehabilitation services and a wide array of diagnostic services. Stay tuned for more updates!

Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science Receives $1- million Donation

Ask a student attending college about the cost of higher education and they will likely attest to the mounting debt and financial burden that comes along with attending a university.

But for some students attending Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science, the financial weight is about to get a lot lighter thanks to a $1 million donation from Joe Adams, Ray Charles’ former manager and his wife Emma.  The donation is equivalent to 100- $10,000 scholarships  – the largest one-time individual gift  in the school’s history.

Charles R. Drew President David Carlisle says he is grateful for the gift and recognizes the positive effect the scholarships will have on the students.

“The more scholarships we can give out,  the less their educational debt and the less dependent they are for borrowing money on their education,”  he said.  “Thousands of lives will be impacted by this contribution- including students, patients, and members of the community that we serve.”

Angela Minniefield, Vice President of Strategic Advancement at the university agreed.

“This is a tremendous investment in our students,” she said,  noting that approximately 78 percent of Charles Drew students qualify for financial aid. “These funds will help to retain our excellent students that experience financial obstacles and help them maintain their commitment to serving the underserved.”

Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas, who represents the area where the university is located, said the gift will help scores of Charles Drew students contribute to the future Martin Luther King, Jr. Medical Campus. The campus, which will house a new hospital and comprehensive health center, will bring health and wellness to a community that has gone on too long without a large health service provider.

“The scholarships will help countless students achieve their dreams of becoming doctors, nurses and experts in the medical community,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas.  “That’s something to celebrate.”

Read the Los Angeles Times story about the $1- million donation here…


Celebrating Cinco de Mayo in Willowbrook

Dancing in a conga line, listening to the trumpet, guitarron and violin of Mariachi Ellas Son, nearly 300 Second District residents celebrated the Cinco de Mayo holiday at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Public Health in Willowbrook. The festive celebration, which commemorates the Mexican army’s 1862 victory over France at the Battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican War, is an annual tradition at the Center for Public Health sponsored by Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas.

“We are here to promote and celebrate health, fitness and wellness,” said Chairman Ridley-Thomas. “Over the next year the Martin Luther King, Jr. medical campus will be transformed into a center of excellence for healthcare delivery in the Willowbrook community and beyond.”

As guests received fitness and nutritional eating tips from various resource tables staged in the parking lot, danced to salsa music or munched on salsa verde with chips, corn and bean salad and a vegetable salad prepared by Chef Cheryl Tate, others contemplated what the holiday means to them and reflected on their Mexican roots.

Among those singing along to the ranchera music was Raquel Piñeda, 60, of Florence-Firestone who moved to Los Angeles from Michoacan, Mexico when she was 15-years-old. When they were young, she instilled in her now-grown children a love of Mexican music and dance.

“On Cinco de Mayo we have a family reunion,” said Piñeda. “We teach the kids how to dance to cumbia, mambo, and rock and roll. We play bingo and poker and watch the kids take turns swinging at the piñata.”

Sandra Gonzalez, 33, from Los Angeles, also pauses on Cinco de Mayo to share memories of family.

“We took my first family trip to Mexico when I was nine and my last when I was 14-years-old,” said Gonzalez. “We share stories with younger generations of visiting Mexico when we were younger and it gives the young people in my family an opportunity to learn about their culture -to know who they are and where they come from.”

For others, like Andres Gonzalez, 33 of South Gate, Cinco de Mayo is an opportunity for people of all cultures and walks of life to come together to learn about Mexican history.

“People forget that the city of L.A. was founded by Mexico — San Francisco, San Diego, Sacramento- all kept the original names that were given to them when they were part of Mexico,” said Gonzalez. “People forget that not all Latinos are immigrants and that they were here when the south west states became part of the U.S.”

Fabiola Galvan Torres, 23, who was born in Michoacan, Mexico and now lives in Canoga Park, says the holiday makes her feel American.

“I feel like now it’s more of a Mexican-American holiday,” she said. “I think it’s great because it brings everyone together not just Mexicans but it has become like St. Patrick’s Day.”

Meet the MLK Hospital Street Naming Contest Winner

Congratulations to Yolonda Simmons, winner of our Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Hospital street naming contest. For more than two months, hundreds of people voted on a name for the new street leading to the hospital, and Simmons’ entry, “Healthy Way, ” beat out 57 other contenders.

In gearing up for the opening of the brand new Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Hospital, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas invited county residents to come up with a name that would capture the spirit of the new medical center and encompass the goals of the surrounding community.

Simmons found out about the contest after reading Supervisor Ridley-Thomas’ monthly newsletter.

“I’ve never entered any contest before but I wanted to have a voice,” Simmons said. “I really wanted to stress health. The hospital had a rocky road when it closed, and I wanted to reignite the excitement about the new hospital and that it is a healthy way now. I wanted to motivate and encourage those driving, walking and entering the hospital to strive for a healthier future.”

Nearly 800 residents took part in the online voting process , and Simmon’s is quick to note that her victory was not accomplished alone.

“My husband is my secret weapon,” said Simmons, who runs Free N One, a substance abuse program with her husband Ronald Simmons. “He was a social media manager for me and really got the word out in the community. We told everyone at a gathering to vote. If you were with us at a dinner we would not let you go unless you voted.”

When she told her husband that she had entered the contest, he began a social media campaign using Twitter and Facebook to support his wife’s entry.

“It’s important to me that the hospital has a positive image and a bright future because our community needs it, wants it and deserves it,” she said. “It is important that the community supports the positive image the hospital will bring.”

Chairman Ridley-Thomas noted that Simmon’s entry, Healthy Way, is much more than a street name.

“I congratulate Yolonda Simmons, who chose this name, to motivate and encourage those driving, walking and/or entering the area of the hospital to strive for a healthier future,” said Chairman Ridley-Thomas. “The new hospital will be at the heart of an wellness complex that, when completed, will bring a level of healthcare excellence to the region.”

Dr. Robert Ross Delivers Keynote at Charles Drew University

Dr. Robert Ross delivered the keynote address at Charles Drew University’s Inauguration of its new president, Dr. David Carlisle. The text of his inspirational speech, in which he extols Dr. Carlisle’s brilliance, record of accomplishment and integrity, as well as the university’s crucial role as a centuries-old institution serving African-American and Latino communities, is featured in full below:

Thank you, and thank you to the friends, family and supporters of Charles R. Drew University, the dedicated faculty, the supportive administration and staff, the students, the Trustees, and of course, our new President, Dr. David Carlisle.

The definition of Inauguration:

· The formal admission of someone to office; a ceremonial induction into office.

· A ceremony to mark the beginning or introduction of something.
· The beginning or introduction of a system, policy, or period.

So, among three standard dictionaries – the British & World English Dictionary, the Merriam Webster Dictionary, and Dictonary.com – three similar, but not identical definitions.

In preparing for these remarks today, I initially struggled with the question of which of these three definitions was most appropriate for this particular ceremony, at this particular time, on this particular day. Which one of these three would I hinge this set of 10-minute, 600 seconds worth of remarks about?

Answer: all three. Upon reflection, this ceremony is certainly about the induction of a person. But it is also about a thing, an institution. Most powerfully, it is about an idea.

As to the first definition, and the one that is most concretely evident as recorded in the printed program, we are indeed marking a “ceremonial induction into office.” It is the representation among the three definitions of the term “inauguration” that is about a particular person being inducted into a particular office.

I have known Dr. David Carlisle for more than two decades, although I will confess that in the earlier portion of that time frame, we did not get to know one another well. We were both participants in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholars Program in the late eighties. I can attest to the fact that, at the time, David embodied, certainly by reputation, being both clinical, and a scholar. (For me, I represented one of the two, and it most certainly was not the scholarly portion.)

Ladies and Gentlemen, allow me to submit that Dr. David Carlisle is a timeless sort of leader. He is a leader who represents the sensibilities and values from a bygone era, but desperately needed in leaders of our current time.

He is obviously bright, even brilliant, certainly accomplished, utterly mission driven, and of tremendous integrity. He is soft spoken, even-tempered, fair-minded, justice-oriented, and, in the tradition of leaders of academic institutions, science-, data-, and evidence-driven. Today’s leaders appear to be suited to the accommodation of political convenience – and even celebrated for their ability to craft political maneuvering.

David, on the other hand, is the umpire dutifully calling balls and strikes, and fair and foul balls, in the World Series Game. He will not sacrifice integrity or truth for the politics or drama of the stage or the moment. He will call them the way he sees them, and he will do so in service of integrity, accountability, and the mission of this extraordinary institution. And he will do so because the institution is bigger than any one of us.

Which brings me to the second definition of the term “inauguration”: a ceremony to mark the introduction, or in this case, the re-birth, of some “thing”. The “thing”, in this case, is Charles R. Drew University, the only historically African-American, Hispanic-serving educational institution in the 230-year plus history of this great nation. This “thing”, the institution, is different – even unique – a community-birthed and community-driven institution who, named after a great figure in African-American history and American medical lore, endures and even thrives in spite of all conceivable manner of financial, political, leadership, and management challenge.

Nearly two years ago our foundation, The California Endowment, was approached to rally to the cause of this institution, and the question on the table for me as CEO, and ultimately, our Board of Directors, was the following: was Charles R. Drew University, as a financially embattled institution, “an investable proposition?”

Many other institutions answered either “no”, or “we’ll wait and see.”

My answer to our Board of Directors – as I requested funding and support for CDU — was a “Yes, we must.” And a key reason was its people. The community it served. The institution’s mission-hungry and passion-driven students. It’s highly committed faculty, sticking with the institution through all and any manner of difficulty. A staff who would never give up on the value that the institution brings to the community.

Which brings me to the third definition of the term “inauguration”: the beginning of a system, policy, or period. And what, precisely, is the “system” or “period” that we, more accurately, “re-inaugurate” today? Most critically, it is that of an idea. And that idea is the idea of health justice. It is as alive and as powerfully relevant today as it was circa 1965 to 1968, when Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi and Cesar Chavez and Malcolm X and the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act were controversial vehicles of social change and social justice and social equity.

While the idea of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Cesar Chavez is too often symbolically reduced to holidays and postage stamps, and festivals, and parades, it is the daily, weekly, and monthly work and commitment to service by Charles R. Drew University that keeps the idea of social and health justice meaningfully, authentically, and palpably alive. And that idea has been fed, nourished and nurtured by the passing of a social justice relay baton, a torch if you will, handled and carried by individuals carrying the names of Drew, and Hawkins, and Gill, and Satcher, and Williams, and Hopper, and Francis, and Dowling, and Norris, and Baker, and Wilson, and Ridley-Thomas, – and now Carlisle.

Men and Women, Ladies and Gentlemen, there is no more extraordinary moment than the moment of now to realize the vision and mission of Charles Drew University. An African-American President of these United States has imposed his leadership will on this nation, to bring forward a policy instrument, a policy platform, in the name of the Affordable Care Act. Accessible, affordable, quality care for all. We cannot waste this moment, and CDU is rising at precisely the right moment in time.

You have a community, and a student body, and an administrative staff, and a faculty, and a Board of Trustees behind you. And you have Dr. David Carlisle to lead you there.

Thank you for permitting me and The California Endowment an opportunity to contribute to an extraordinary saga in the history of health justice in this nation. God Bless You, and the Charles R. Drew University, and congratulations to Doctor David Carlisle.

Robert K. Ross, M.D.
President & CEO
The California Endowment
February 2013