Named after a trailblazing Black doctor, Charles R. Drew, who pioneered the use of blood banks and blood transfusions, the Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science is a storied, Historically Black Medical College (only one of four such ), and the second most racially diverse university in the US. The university comprises the College of Medicine (COM), the College of Health and Sciences, and the Mervyn M. Dymally School of Nursing. Since its inception the school has graduated over 600 physicians and over 1600 other health care professionals. This article will take a look at the school’s academic offerings, admission requirements and give you useful tips on how to get accepted.
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“Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science is a private non-profit student-centered University that is committed to cultivating diverse health professional leaders who are dedicated to social justice and health equity for underserved populations through outstanding education, research, clinical service, and community engagement.”
The university was founded a short while after the Watts Uprising, which served as the catalyst to create a Black medical school that served its community in South Central Los Angeles, while also combating racism in health care. The school takes an active approach to raising awareness of these disparities with its various public health degrees, but also through the diversity of its students and faculty, as 80% of its students and 70% of its faculty are people of color.
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Overall Acceptance Rate: 1.13%
Percentage of Students from In-State: 89%
Percentage of Students from Out-of-State: 10%
Average MCAT of Incoming Students: n/a
Average GPA of Incoming Students: 3.42
Preference for Masters or PhD: No
In accordance with its stated mission to select and train “diverse health professional leaders”, along with accepting , the COM takes into consideration several applicant factors (dedication to serving POC (people of color), and underserved communities, community service, etc.) besides the traditional , medical school letters of recommendation and a virtual for applicants who reach the interview stage.
Charles R. Drew is a Historically Black Medical School, which is an official recognition given by the Department of Education, but that does not mean it only accepts POC. Applicants from any racial or ethnic group who feel they want to be a part of the school’s mission to address and eliminate disparities in health care by serving the medical needs of these communities are encouraged to apply.
A majority of its students are from California, but the school does not screen applicants based on their state of origin, so it does enroll out of state applicants and does not show an explicit preference for in-state students. It is both an and a , since it encourages both Canadian and international students to apply.
All applicants to the MD program must have a bachelor’s degree from an American or Canadian institution. Foreign applicants who have done their undergraduate in a school outside the US or Canada, must have their grades and transcripts verified by an authorized accrediting agency, such as World Education Services (WES) or Josef Silny and Associates (JSA) to have their course work count toward their medical school application.
International students must also demonstrate English language proficiency if their undergraduate instruction was not in English. They must take the TOEFL test and submit their scores along with their application. As international applicants are ineligible to receive federal funds, they must demonstrate they have the financial resources for
MCAT and GPA
Average GPA of Incoming Class: 3.42
The COM requires all applicants to submit their most recent MCAT scores, and they have a hard timeline for when you should take the test. It requires students to take the MCAT by September of the year before they apply to the medical school. The school will take into consideration all your MCAT attempts, but they will not accept any MCAT scores from before 2018.
Coursework and Undergrad
The school has several and has even more rigorous standards than many other medical schools. It requires applicants complete six months of biochemistry and calculus, while its recommended course consist more of social science courses, Spanish, and statistics, which is rare for a medical school.
The school required course are the following:
- Biology – 1 year w/1 year of lab work
- General Chemistry – 1 year w/1 year of lab work
- Organic Chemistry – 1 year w/1 year of lab work
- Physics – 1 year w/1 year of lab work
- Biochemistry – 6 months
- Calculus – 6 months
- English – 1 year
The recommended courses for all applicants are as follows:
- Introduction to Sociology
- Introduction to Psychology
- Introduction to Philosophy/Ethics
- Spanish – Verbally Proficient
- Humanities – Social Justice/Ethnic Studies
- Research Courses – Scientific Writing
- Introduction to Statistics
AMCAS Work and Activities
Charles R. Drew University uses the AMCAS application service created by the American Medical Association to accept, review and organize all applications to its MD program. The school requires students to submit their transcripts, MCAT scores and medical school letters of recommendation via the service for their primary application.
As all other allopathic and osteopathic medical schools do, the COM sends qualified applicants a secondary application if they have met the school’s academic and non-academic requirements. The school takes a holistic approach to reviewing all applications and looks at many factors of an applicant's history, which should be outlined in the and sections.
These two sections of the AMCAS application serve to highlight your non-academic qualifications, as you are given ample space to write about your volunteer work, extracurriculars for medical school, academic achievements, and research work. If you are thinking of applying specifically to the CDU COM you should know that the Admissions Committee places emphasis on four key areas when considering non-academic factors:
- Health care delivery (courses that examine the legal, historical, political, moral and scientific factors affecting health care delivery)
- Human diversity
- Research or community service experience
The other factors they consider include your writing, communication, and interpersonal skills, which are areas you will address by writing your , interview (if you are invited for an interview), and letters of recommendation.
Sample AMCAS Work and Activities Entry
Type: Artistic Endeavors
Name: Katherine Johnston
Hours: 40 hours
Most Meaningful: Yes or No – Yes
During my undergraduate, I volunteered with the Memory Care program at the Elderly Community Center in Burbank, California, where I facilitated art therapy sessions for the elderly residents. Through the art therapy sessions, I saw how the elderly residents were able to express themselves creatively and communicate with their loved ones in a way that they could not do through verbal communication.
I worked with a resident named Della Stanton, who had been struggling to communicate with her daughter due to the advanced stages of her dementia. I used watercolors and asked Della to create a painting that reminded her of her daughter. As she worked on the painting, I asked her questions about her daughter and listened as she reminisced about the happy times they shared.
Della’s painting was filled with vibrant colors and joy, and it conveyed the love she had for her daughter. When her daughter came to visit her, I showed her the painting and explained the process behind it. The daughter was moved to tears and hugged her mother, thanking me for helping her connect with her mother again. Seeing the impact that art therapy had on Stanton and her daughter inspired me to continue my work with the Memory Care program.
I helped organize a community art exhibition that showcased the artwork created by the residents, which allowed them to share their creativity with the wider community. It was heartwarming to see the elderly residents beam with pride as they showed their artwork to their families and friends.
Overall, my experience with the Memory Care program taught me the power of art therapy in helping people with dementia connect with their loved ones. It reinforced my commitment to using my artistic skills to help others, and it inspired me to pursue a career in the healthcare field where I can continue to make a difference in people's lives.
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A medical school personal statement is one of the few places where you can show your true motivation for wanting to become a doctor, apart from your interview. The personal statement is supposed to address the question of and gives you cause to reflect on why you are choosing a career in medicine.
A good personal statement should have a strong, emotionally impactful opening line that draws the reader into the rest of your narrative. If you have a good opener, then you can use the rest of the space to talk about your journey to medical school and how experiences in your life (tragic, happy, meaningful) have molded you for this profession, but also what you have done to ensure you are prepared for a career in medicine, both academically and non-academically.
All medical schools, both allopathic and osteopathic, ask students to complete a set of based around pointed questions and prompts. Many schools use this opportunity to see how committed and dedicated applicants are to the school’s stated mission and overall vision. The CDU COM also does this as it asks applicants how they will uphold and propagate the school’s mission to fight racial inequality in health care, as well as serve underserved communities.
- The university’s vision statement is “Excellent health and wellness for all in a world without health disparities”. Describe how you envision yourself contributing to the CDU vision statement. (1200 characters)
- Describe your commitment to transforming the health of diverse and underserved communities. (800 characters)
- Detail the key motivational factors in your decision to apply to the CDU MD Program. (1200 characters).
- Have you participated in any CDU programs (pipeline, degree, community, etc.)? Please describe. (Optional and 800 characters)
- How did you hear about our new MD program? (Optional and unlimited characters)
Secondary Essay Sample for Prompt #2
I am committed to transforming the health of underserved communities as I have been on the frontlines with the people trying to bridge the gap between medical care and underserved communities. At the Watts Health Center, I worked with a team of healthcare professionals to provide free healthcare services to uninsured patients in the community, as many people in and around South-Central Los Angeles are still unable to qualify for the ACA. I also volunteered with the Street Medicine team, providing care to homeless individuals living on Skid Row, such as making appointments for them with local clinics or refilling any prescriptions they needed. I also helped them fill out forms so they could apply for food and housing vouchers.
As part of your primary AMCAS application, the school asks you to submit a minimum of three and a maximum of five . There are no hard requirements for who your letter writers should be, but even though you can learn , you cannot submit letters you wrote yourself.
The school accepts letters from pre-health science committees, previous science instructors, but it does not require them the way other medical schools do. You can submit personal references, letters from former employers, and other writers, but since you are allowed to submit up to five letters, it would be best if you can submit letters of every type (personal, pre-health committee, and former instructors).
Candidates selected for an interview after submitting their secondary application will undergo two interviews: one 20-minute interview with a single member of the Admissions Committee, and an MMI-style interview composed of four individual stations, each station lasting 10-minutes. You can prepare for this part of the interview by reading , and figuring out
The interview tries to gauge your analytical and critical thinking skills, while also looking for how you handle yourself in a crisis or high-stress situation. You will be graded according to the Likert scale and given a score of between 0 – 10, with a 0-score meaning you are unsuited to become a doctor, and 10-score meaning you have the requisite skills, competence, and compassion to enter the medical profession.
- “Are you prepared for a career built on serving underprivileged communities?”
- “What is one good thing about the US healthcare system?”
- “What is one of your weaknesses?”
Sample Answer for Interview Question #2
The US healthcare system provides some of the best medical treatments and technologies in the world. For example, the US has the highest survival rates for several types of cancer, such as breast, prostate, and colon cancer, compared to other countries with nationalized healthcare systems. Additionally, the US has a higher rate of organ transplants than countries with nationalized healthcare systems. The US also leads in medical research and development, which has resulted in groundbreaking advancements in treatments for various diseases.
The school normally holds interviews between December and April, after accepting and reviewing all secondary applications. Letters of acceptance are sent out beginning March 15th of the application year. The Admissions Committee, which consists of 17 individuals associated with the university, such as faculty (from several disciplines and courses such as basic sciences, clinical sciences, researchers, and community members), administrators, and current students, hold votes on who to accept.
The Admissions Committee adds your interview scores to your application packet and assesses your suitability for the medical program based on a variety of factors, such as your commitment to serve underserved communities, your willingness to work with others, the diversity and uniqueness of your background and experiences, as well as your “coursework and extra-curricular activities”.
Applicants who are not sent letters of acceptance, but who nevertheless satisfy the requirements to enter the MD program are placed on a and are sent acceptances, if other applicants reject or decline offers (accepted students have two weeks to accept or decline their offers). The school keeps waitlisted students on the list until April 30th and admits waitlisted students based on their rank list position. The school does not state what, if anything, you can do to get off the waitlist, nor how many students are admitted off the waitlist, but it does keep track of how many students are admitted from the waitlist.
Primary AMCAS Application Deadline: February 28
Recommended Submission Date: February 10th
Secondary Application Deadline: 14 days after receiving your secondary application or March 1st
The school recommends that you submit your primary application by February 10th to ensure that you have enough time to submit your secondary application by the March 1st deadline. You can submit your secondary application earlier than March 1st or the 14 days deadline based on when you receive the secondary application, but submitting earlier does not mean you will be notified earlier than other applicants, as the school does not use a system for sending out acceptances.
Tuition (one year): $69,000
Yearly Cost of Living Expenses (includes health insurance, room and board, personal expenses): $48,110
Total Yearly Cost of Attendance: $117,110
The CDU COM lists several external medical school scholarships on its website available for students who require financial aid, aside from the federally subsidized loans available to all qualifying US students. Given scholarships are a useful way to pay for medical school without having to be burdened by substantial debt.
The school also gives students the opportunity to apply for federal work study programs that tie your education to a paid position at either the university or some other non-profit, community-based initiative, approved by the university. You must also meet certain requirements to be eligible for a work-study program, attend information sessions as part of the application, and maintain satisfactory performance in the position if you are hired.
1. Andrew Young Scholarship
This $5000 award is handed out via the Thurgood Marshall College Fund and is primarily for students who are entering either a Historically Black College or University or a TMCF partner university, both of which apply to Charles R. Drew University. Applicants must fit a specific set of requirements, but the more general ones include demonstrating financial need and having a minimum GPA of 3.0.
The other requirements include:
- Being a high school graduate
- Completion of the Civil Rights: A Global Perspective course or,
- Being a member of the Andrew Young YMCA in Atlanta
- A university freshman at either a HBCU or TMCF-partner university
- A full-time student
- Citizen or permanent resident of the US
2. Theta Upsilon Sigma Scholarships
This chapter of the Sigma Gamma Rho sorority offers several scholarships to high school students, undergraduates and graduates from the Greater Los Angeles – South Bay area to pay for college, including applicants to the Charles R. Drew College of Medicine. There are three distinct scholarships that have various eligibility requirements with prizes and awards ranging in amounts such as $700 to as much as $8000.
One scholarship offered by Theta Upsilon Sigma is the Aurora scholarship that awards a single $2,200 award to current undergraduate or graduate students who must complete a 1–2-page essay based on a specific prompt, which is:
“Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.”
3. Chappell Smith & Arden Scholarship Essay Contest
This is a privately funded scholarship (award amount is $1500) given out by the Chappel Smith & Arden law firm, which is available to students who are currently enrolled in a college or university (regardless of the program) and asks applicants to write an essay based around a specific topic. The topic changes every year, but the most current prompt is:
“In 2021, South Carolina saw a 6% increase in fatal car accidents. What steps could the state make to decrease the number of injuries and accidents on the road? Please provide specific examples.”
The essay must be between 300-500 words and applicants must use and cite their sources, and use verifiable sources and statistic. They must also ensure that they are within 50 words of the official word count. Entries that are lower than 50 words to the word count will be disqualified.
In previous years, 100% of Charles R. Drew graduates have matched into their preferred residency programs. A majority of graduates entered either a family medicine residency or an internal medicine residency, while the third most popular specialty was another primary care field, psychiatry.
1. Four-Year MD Program
The four-year MD program at Charles R. Drew is offered in collaboration with the David Geffen as the CDU has only recently received accreditation from the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME) to create its own four-year MD program. The collaboration between CDU and UCLA combines a community-based focus on social justice with a systems-based approach to train students on the fundamentals of medical science and arts. Students enter the first two years of the program at UCLA and later are given the opportunity to perform their clerkships in local hospitals and clinics to fulfill the CDU COM mission of serving underserved communities to eliminate disparities in health care.
2. CDU Postbaccalaureate Leadership Program
This post-bac program is aimed at both reapplicants who failed to gain admission into the four-year MD program, and first-time applicants who want to increase their GPA to enter medical school, rather than find out ways . The program lasts for 12-months and covers several important areas from teaching students , and giving them instruction in upper-level science courses.
Applicants must have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university, and a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.94 and a minimum science GPA of 2.8. They must also have taken the following prerequisite courses to gain admittance to the post-bac program:
- One year of Biology w/lab work
- One year of Chemistry w/lab work
- One year of Organic Chemistry w/lab
- One year of Physics w/lab work
- Biochemistry (recommended but not required)
3. Charles R. Drew/UCLA PRIME-LA
This dual-degree program from CDU and UCLA gives 18 qualified and interested students a chance to earn both a medical degree and one of three master’s degrees in an area related to the spirit of the program. The spirit of the program is to address health care disparities in care delivery and find ways to serve the medical needs of an underserved community in Southern California, but the US as well.
Successful applicants can choose between:
Regardless of the degree you select, the PRIME-LA program lasts for five years, with a medical degree and master’s degree awarded to anyone who completes the program’s requirements. Students can opt to take a dual-degree program, or choose a Discovery of Area of Concentration in their third year that broadens their knowledge and understanding of medicine by getting them to focus on eight specific areas:
- Basic, Clinical, and Translational Research
- Global Health
- Social Science and Medical Humanities
- Innovation and Entrepreneurship
- Health Justice and Advocacy
- Bioinformatics and Data Science
- Medical Education and Leadership
- Health Delivery Improvement Science
This dual-degree program offered in collaboration with UCLA and CalTech gives any interested students the chance to earn a PhD, while completing their medical studies at Charles R. Drew. The program aims to train the next generation of physician/researchers and lasts for up to 8 years. The program gives medical doctors a more in-depth background in biomedical science preparing them for entry into various research fields and institutes.
This concurrent degree is another offering from Charles R. Drew in collaboration with the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health and is in line with the CDU’s strong commitment to give medical students a wider understanding of the impact of public health policy on disadvantaged populations. The five-year program begins in earnest in a student’s third year, where they take a year off to pursue the master’s by taking courses in public policy and health care, then return to complete their medical degree.
This five-year, dual-degree program gives qualified medical students the opportunity to earn an MBA in their fourth-year at the UCLA Anderson School of Management. Students complete their first three years in the medical school and then take the GMAT to gain entry into the master’s degree program. This degree is intended to give you a better understanding of the business and management side of medicine. You take classes in health care management and administration to prepare you for a career in the private sphere of health care.
The Charles R. Drew MD program is still being formulated, but the current program for medical students enrolled in the joint Charles R. Drew/UCLA MD program integrates concepts like:
- Social justice and diversity
- Community engagement
- International exposure
- Health policy
The ways the school hopes to weave these concepts into a standard, medical school curriculum range from focusing on translational, thesis, and lab research for the research component to getting students to participate in advocacy projects or attend city hall and state government meetings for the social justice component.
All of these projects will be introduced to students at different years, as they progress through the curriculum. Alongside teaching students more about how to recognize, and theorize about how to solve disparities in health care, students go through a systems-based approach to learning about medicine.
The first two years consists of introduction to these systems, which begins with Anatomy/Physiology in the first year. After completion of these systems, students advance to others like Genetics, Embryology, Histology. and Microbiology. The second year continues with giving students a wide foundation in medical science as they explore systems like Renal/Gastrointestinal, Musculoskeletal, and the Reproductive systems.
Upon entering their third, clerkship year, students are expected to complete a series of clinical rotations in ten medical specialties such as Internal Medicine, Pediatrics, OB/GYN, and General Surgery. Students complete these clinical rotations at several sites throughout South Los Angeles and they must successfully pass a clinical skills exam at the end of their third year.
The fourth and final year is where students discover as they no longer have to know , but whether they will enter a or an . But the final year is also heavy with electives, formulating and completing a research project and the presentation of this capstone project.
The Charles R. Drew campus is located in the Watts-Willowbrook area of Los Angeles so it is an urban campus that gives students access to several cultural, recreational and social centers located throughout Los Angeles. As medical students enrolled in the joint Charles R. Drew/UCLA MD program study for their first two years at the UCLA campus, they will also have access to the facilities and resources of the UCLA campus.
The Charles R. Drew campus also hosts the university’s three main schools; the College of Medicine, the College of Science and Health, and the Mervyn M. Dymally School of Nursing. There are eight different buildings on campus that house classrooms, libraries, wellness and fitness facilities, as well as research labs.
The W. Montague Cobb Medical Education Center and the Life Sciences Research Nursing Education Building are the campuses’ two largest buildings, with the former being the main center of the MD program. The Cobb building is where the administration of the College of Medicine is also housed, along with several student relations departments like Finance and Admissions.
- California Hospital Medical Center, Dignity Health/Common Spirit
- Cedars-Sinai Medical Center
- Global Care Medical Group IPA
- Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, Department of Health Services, Los Angeles County
- Kedren Health, Psychiatric Hospital and Community Health Center
- Long Beach Veteran’s Administration Medical Center
- Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital
- Rancho Los Amigos Rehabilitation Center and Hospital, Department of Health Services, Los Angeles County
- Saint Francis Medical Center
- Saint Mary’s Medical Center, Dignity Health/Common Spirit
Charles R. Drew has thirteen different research centers located on its campus and the UCLA campus, which expand knowledge and research into several areas including cancer, HIV/AIDS, diabetes, substance abuse, urban health and translational research. Many of these centers explore these issues via a lens of health care equality and aim to eliminate disparities in the care of various populations.
The school’s emphasis on research is also manifested in the various specialized research labs such as the Center for Biomedical Informatics, Accelerating Excellence in Translational Science Center (AXIS), and the Clinical and Translational Science Institute. Many of the school’s other research projects involve improving health outcomes in Black communities like the CDU/UCLA Cancer Center Partnership to Eliminate Cancer Health Disparities, which aims to improve outcomes for people from minority communities diagnosed with cancer.
Dr. Lisa Barkley, Chair of the Department of Family Medicine and Associate Dean of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for CDU
Dr. Barkley recently gave a presentation at the PAC12 Health Equity Summit, where she delivered an address entitled, “Provision of Care with Diverse Patients”, where she argued that issues including race, economic inequality and social conditioning impact all play a role in determining health outcomes for Black student athletes as well as the wider Black community.
Dr. Patricia Bath
The late Dr. Bath was a pioneering ophthalmologist who is credited both with demonstrating the effectiveness of lasers to treat cataracts and creating a new discipline to understand blindness and eye-related diseases among Black communities. She created the term “community ophthalmology” to address the eye health needs of underserved populations in the US and abroad, as her research showed these communities suffered from higher instances of blindness and glaucoma. Dr. Bath briefly served as the chief resident of the ophthalmology residency program at both Charles R. Drew and UCLA Jules Stein Eye Institute.
Dr. Deborah Prothrow-Stith, Professor of Internal Medicine, and Dean of the College of Medicine
The current Dean of the College of Medicine, Dr. Prothrow-Stith had an illustrious career in medicine and health care administration even before taking her most recent role as the Dean. She is a graduate of Spelman and Harvard and has advised several public health bodies and commissions on the effects of violence on the health of underserved communities.
Dr. Prothrow-Stith was one of the first physicians in the US to identify gun violence as a public health threat and has published several books on the topic. She also created the Violence Prevention Curriculum for Adolescents, which is an educational tool used by high schools throughout the US and abroad.
Office of Admissions (College of Medicine)
1731 E. 120th St.
Los Angeles, CA 90059
1. What is the mission of the Charles R. Drew University College of Medicine?
The mission of the university is a reflection of its namesake's life and career, Charles R. Drew, who was both a pioneering medical doctor and researcher and sought to serve and help those in medically underserved communities. The school’s curriculum seeks to instill in students a sense of social responsibility and justice, while also encouraging to them to become scientific innovators.
2. Do I need to take the MCAT and submit my scores?
Yes, you must submit your most recent MCAT scores, although the school will review all your past MCAT scores going back ten years.
3. What is the minimum GPA requirement?
The MD program at Charles R. Drew is still awaiting accreditation, so it has not yet created its own academic requirements to enter the college of medicine. But you can use the GPA requirements of the other health care professional programs, such as the physician assistant program for refernece on what your GPA should be. Incoming students to the PA program have an average GPA of 3.42.
4. What kind of degree do I need to get into CDU-COM?
You only have to have completed three years of a four-year degree to apply to the current MD program available at the school, which is given both by Charles R. Drew and UCLA. But the new program currently being designed to be the school’s independent MD program, does require you to have a bachelor’s degree.
5. Are there prerequisite courses I have to take?
Yes, all applicants must have successfully passed courses in biology, chemistry, physics, calculus and English. The recommended courses include unconventional subjects like sociology, Spanish as a second language, and humanities subjects like philosophy, social justice and statistics.
6. How can I apply to the CDU COM?
Applicants to the Charles R. Drew/UCLA program apply via the AMCAS application service and must also submit a secondary application directly to the school.
7. How much does one year at CDU-COM cost?
The school does not have separate medical school tuition for in-state or out-of-state students, but one year of tuition costs $69,900. With added costs such as health insurance, room and board, transportation and other costs, that figure rises to $117,110.
8. Is it hard to get into CDU-COM?
Charles R. Drew is not one of the despite its mission to accept and train residents from underserved minority communities. It has rigorous academic standards and has one of the lowest based on last year’s data, as it only accepted 1% of applicants. But the school emphasizes that applicants should have demonstrated interest and commitment in helping eliminate health care disparities, serving underserved communities and community service.
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