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Charles Drew selects new provost from within campus

Cynthia E. Griffin- | 12/1/2010, 5 p.m.

The educational landscape is undergoing drastic change, and the only minority-serving medical and health science institution of higher learning on the West Coast is following the flow in that regard.

Charles Drew University of Medicine and Science has just promoted Dr. Richard S. Baker to the post of provost, and this internal move is part of the college's growth process.

"It was something that needed to be done. That's the reality of it, particularly, when we developed the third school--the school of nursing," explained Dr. Baker, who as provost, serves as the chief academic officer of the university.

Baker says many other universities around the nation have similar formats, where one individual is responsible for the academic offerings of multiple colleges and making sure that there is cohesion, synergy and hard decisions made that benefit entire the campus.

With the addition of the school of nursing, CDU now has three distinct but related colleges--nursing, the school of medicine and the allied school of science and health.

Dr. Baker's goal in his new position is "to advance the academic mission of the university . . . and my responsibility is to produce high-quality products--students."

In order to produce high-caliber graduates, Baker believes it is crucial that Drew position itself to be uniquely useful in the marketplace.

In the past, Drew's unique position was to produce a diverse population of quality physicians, distinctively trained to serve underrepresented communities.

And the school has done this, in part, by taking the talented young people they admit (typically officials cull through 1,700 applicants to find 24 candidates) and pulling back the curtain to make sure the young people are taught the skills that help them succeed, Baker said.

"Part of the job is not to just let students go through, but to also say 'let me tell you specifically some of things you need to do to be successful. Let me help you succeed,'" explained Dr. Baker, noting that all of the university's faculty members are master teachers who give their students a value-added education.

One of the other challenges the university is addressing is setting up policies that are uniquely tailored to the school.

". . . We were created initially, when Martin Luther King Hospital opened. We were created as a private school that was the educational adjunct to the hospital. But it was an adjunct to the county hospital; a very big bureaucracy. Even in its hey day, the hospital had a $450 million budget, and the part of the budget that went to the university was $14 million," explained the ophthalmology professor.

Later when the university connected to UCLA, Baker pointed out that the Westwood campus had its policies and Drew once again served as an adjunct to those.

Now the Watts-based medical school is in the process of developing policies and procedures that are unique to the university, and this, said Dr. Baker, is part of a maturation process that includes developing organization charts, operating transparently, developing its own brand and identity, and focusing on the core mission.

Baker, himself, brings a host of different skills to the role of provost. A tenured, associate professor in the Department of Ophthalmology at Charles R. Drew University and at the Jules Stein Eye Institute at the UCLA Geffen School of Medicine, he received his undergraduate degree in physics from Stanford University. Baker earned his medical degree from Harvard Medical School and from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a thesis concentration in biostatistics and epidemiology.

His postdoctoral training includes a fellowship at the Joslin Diabetes Center in Harvard Medical School, and a National Institutes of Health fellowship in chronic disease epidemiology at Drew University. He is also director of the Research Centers in Minority Institutions/National Institutes of Health Biomedical Research Center at Charles R. Drew University, executive director and co-founder of the Urban Telemedicine Centers of Excellence, associate director of the Center for Eye Epidemiology at UCLA, and co-founder of the Los Angeles Eye Institute.