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Charles Drew University in South Los Angeles Starts Its Own Medical School

When it comes to diversity, California’s medical work force looks far different from the state’s wider population.

Latino and Black people make up 45 percent of California’s residents, but less than 10 percent of its physicians. Health care experts say this disparity can have a big effect on patients.

There’s strong evidence that sharing a language and background with the practitioners who treat them can improve care and lead to better outcomes for patients from minority groups. Physicians are better able to understand their patients, and feel more connected to them and their well-being, said Dr. David Carlisle, president of Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science in South Los Angeles.

“You look at a 90-year-old lying on a gurney in a hospital and you think, ‘That person could be my grandmother,’” Carlisle told me.

With that in mind, Carlisle and his colleagues at Charles Drew started a new medical program this year that aims to make California’s supply of physicians look more like California. The school has partnered for years with the University of California, Los Angeles, to jointly train medical students, but for a long time its leaders have wanted to start the university’s own medical program. They finally got accreditation last year.

“It’s something that’s been coming along for decades,” Carlisle told me. “It’s important to train physicians who want to serve in this community.” Plus, he added: “Kids who are in this community can see what they can be.”

The university was founded in 1966 after the Watts Riots, in a small neighborhood between Compton and Watts, to improve access to medical care in the region and reduce racial disparities in health care. This summer, it welcomed its inaugural class of 60 students, making it the only four-year medical school at a historically Black institution west of the Mississippi.

(There are three historically Black universities with medical schools in the East: Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta and Howard University College of Medicine in Washington, D.C.)

Kevin Artiga, one of the new students and the child of immigrants from El Salvador, said that while growing up in South Los Angeles, it was hard to miss the ways that poverty, violence and homelessness kept people from accessing regular and quality health care. After his mother was diagnosed with cancer, Artiga, who graduated from U.C. San Diego, felt motivated to pursue a medical education.

“My dream would be to dedicate my career to South L.A. and really improving the standard of care here and the service to people,” Artiga told me. “Seeing a medical school open in my community I think is incredible.”

Half of the 60 students in the first class were recipients of a federal Pell Grant in college, meaning that their families are low-income. Many were first-generation college students. Nearly a quarter are Latino and half are Black, according to the university.

“Many of them are bilingual and trilingual. Many religions and countries are represented, and they’re from all over California,” Dr. Margarita Loeza, assistant dean of student affairs and admissions, told the California Health Care Foundation. “They are the face of California.”

Today’s tip comes from Edwina Duenas, who recommends a visit to the charming town of Benicia in the Bay Area:

“This summer I went on a weekend staycation in Benicia, and it was an unexpected delight.

Start the day visiting one of Benicia’s many cafes dotting First Street, the heart of downtown Benicia. States Coffee, Fox & Fawn Bakehouse and Drift Coffee are nice options for a morning coffee or light breakfast. For sightseeing, there’s plenty of history to take in since Benicia was once one of California’s state capitals. Be sure to visit the Benicia Capitol State Historic Park and Fischer Hanlon House next door, a California historical landmark.

As you continue down First Street, grab a meal or shop at a local business before being greeted by views of the bay at the end. Try the crave-worthy olive oil and onion dip at Bella Siena before dining on pasta, seafood and other Italian-inspired dishes. For lighter fare, order a tea leaf salad at the Burmese restaurant Aung MayLiKa. Then, walk off your meal at the Benicia Fishing Pier where you can look onto neighboring Martinez and the greater East Bay as cargo ships pass the Carquinez Bridge.

I loved how walkable downtown Benicia was with easy parking to boot — not something that can be said for every city in the Bay Area. It had a small-town feel that was inviting and set the tone for a weekend of exploring. I truly felt like I was on a trip despite being just 45 minutes from home in the San Francisco Peninsula!”

Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Email your suggestions to We’ll be sharing more in upcoming editions of the newsletter.

Today we’re asking about love: not whom you love, but what you love about your corner of California.

Email us a love letter to your California city, neighborhood or region — or to the Golden State as a whole — and we may share it in an upcoming newsletter. You can reach the team at

Twenty years ago, Carolyn Hoskins’s grandson approached her with a question for a school project on Black History Month: Are there famous Black American figures other than the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.?

For Hoskins, widow of Bob Hoskins, a Black football player for the 49ers in the 1970s, the question was a calling. Now, the seed of that school project has blossomed into the Domini Hoskins Black History Museum and Learning Center, a traveling Black history museum in the Bay Area that celebrates the innovations and contributions of Black Americans to the country, and especially to football.

The museum consists of thousands of artifacts collected by Hoskins — like artwork, books, and red and gold 49ers memorabilia — which have until now been displayed at venues across the Bay Area and stored between showings. With new funding from the State Legislature this year, Hoskins plans to give the museum a permanent home in Redwood City.

“I want people to understand how important and rich the history is, and all of the great contributions that African Americans have given and all of the struggles that they have gone through to still be here and standing strong,” Hoskins told The Mercury News.

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