Research will serve as the linchpin of broader collaboration between Western University of Health Sciences and Charles Drew University of Medicine and Science. View Poster Presentations list

About 50 administrators and faculty from the two universities met recently at the first combined research retreat at the California Endowment Center for Healthy Communities in downtown Los Angeles.

The two universities share a similar vision for research and both are interested in at-risk populations, said Steven Henriksen, PhD, WesternU Vice President for Research and Biotechnology.

“We’re both attempting to have a bigger research footprint at our individual institutions,” Henriksen said.

The two universities are relatively small compared to many of the larger research-intensive institutions, so they can learn from each other in ways that are relevant to each other, said Keith Norris, MD, Charles Drew University of Medicine and Science (CDU) Vice President for Research.

“We have many similarities that will lead to more significant partnering and better leveraging,” he said. “We have a similar infrastructure, similar resources and I think we share common values. We both produce health professionals and serve underserved communities. A lot of these commonalities brought us together.”

Another common thread is a mutual admiration and respect between the universities’ leaders, WesternU President Philip Pumerantz, PhD, and CDU President Susan Kelly, PhD, FAPS. That respect led to Henriksen and Norris talking about potential collaborations, resulting in the research retreat.

“We thought research was a great vehicle to jump-start collaborations,” Norris said. “We are putting together pilot funding opportunities. Nothing stimulates collaboration like pilot funding.”

Norris and Henriksen announced $20,000 in pilot funding for collaborations between WesternU and CDU researchers. The details of the application process and the number of grants are being developed.

The presentations at the retreat included “Role of Vitamin D on the Prevention of Fibrosis” by Jorge N. Artaza, MSc., PhD, CDU Research Assistant Professor; “Stressed Out Bacteria” by Beatrice Saviola, PhD, WesternU Associate Professor of Microbiology; “Sexual Orientation & Testing for Prostate & Colorectal Cancers among Men in California by Kevin C. Heslin, PhD, Health Services Researcher at CDU’s Research Centers in Minority Institutions; Comparative genomics: from mice to men and dogs” by Kristopher Irizarry, PhD, WesternU Assistant Professor of Bioinformatics, Genetics and Genomics; and “Potential application of inflammatory biomarkers on ventricular remodeling following stem cell and pharmacological treatment of myocardial infarction in the rat” by Sheryl L. Chow, PharmD, WesternU Assistant Professor.

Chow’s presentation showcased her potential WesternU-CDU collaboration with Nestor Gonzalez-Cadavid, PhD, CDU Professor of Medicine, Arezoo Campbell, PhD, WesternU Assistant Professor, and UCLA medical student Judy Wang, BS.

Irizarry’s speech motivated Eric G. Bing, MD, PhD, MPH, Director of CDU’s Drew Center for AIDS Research, Education, and Services, to talk to him about Bing’s interest in the genetics of behavior. Creating synergy is important in research relationships, Bing said.

“It’s important to have a face-to-face connection, to see who I can relate to as a person,” Bing said.

The retreat stimulated plenty of introductions and conversations, but participants said they must take the next step and pursue potential collaborations.

“I really think we individually cannot expect the two leaders of the universities to make everything happen,” said Kevin C. Heslin, PhD, Health Services Researcher at CDU’s Research Centers in Minority Institutions. “We have to get on the phone, e-mail, and start the conversation with each other. Taking personal responsibility is a big part of what gets things done.”

Energized by the July 15 retreat, participants are already planning for a follow-up meeting in August or September.

Daniel Pearce, DO, WesternU Associate Professor of Internal Medicine, said he came away with a lot of good ideas and inspiration from CDU colleagues who are involved in similar projects.

“I’m looking forward to future collaborations,” he said. “I found a lot of people I want to emulate in the future.”

About Western University of Health Sciences

Western University of Health Sciences (, located in Pomona, Calif., is an independent nonprofit health professions university, conferring degrees in health sciences, nursing, osteopathic medicine, pharmacy, physical therapy, physician assistant studies and veterinary medicine. In 2009, the university will admit students to new degree programs in dentistry, optometry, podiatry and biomedical sciences.

About Charles Drew University of Medicine and Science

The Charles Drew University of Medicine and Science has evolved and grown, shaped by the needs of the community it serves. Located in the Watts-Willowbrook section of South Los Angeles, the institution benefits from its location and the corresponding diversity and complexity of its patient population by creating an academic environment unlike any other. Through innovative basic science, the University conducts education, patient care and research programs – training physicians and allied health professionals to provide care to underserved populations.