A new $43 million, two-story building which just broke ground on the campus of Charles Drew University of Medicine and Science is expected to serve the dual functions of helping re-invigorate the economics in the community surrounding the Watts facility and beginning to address the nursing and the nursing faculty shortage, which is particularly acute in minority communities.

The building, called the Mervyn S. Dymally School of Nursing, will be home to 40 nursing students, 10 faculty members and their support staff as well as 100 individuals involved in research.

An estimated 350 temporary construction jobs will be created during the 16-18 month building period as well as an additional 600 trickle-down, off-site positions. The general contractor Gkkworks of Irvine is a certified minority business enterprise (MBE), and about 12 to 13 percent of subcontractor son the job are MBEs and women business owners.

The nursing students, who must already possess a bachelor’s degree, will take a two-year master’s level curriculum, and the idea said Dr. Gail Orum-Alexander, dean of the College of Science and Health, is to bring in those people who do not already have nursing degrees and are perhaps changing career directions. They will in turn develop skills and expertise in minority health issues.

Ideally, Orum Alexander said every year the school will add new programs, such as degree completion options for people who are already registered nurses. This growth will depend on approval by the Board of Registered Nursing.

In addition to nursing classroom, the new building will serve as a research facility feature basic science as well as clinical research and the latter will create opportunities for hiring research assistants, forging community liaisons and other partnerships. There will be human trials., as well as studies that look at how well research translates into the surrounding community.

According to Dr. Keith Norris, executive vice president for research and health affairs, among the research to be conducted at the facility are looking at high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, chronic kidney disease, HIV/AIDS, mental disorders, and eventually blood diseases such as sickle cell.

The nursing building, which is being funded through a $43 million bond issued by the California Educational Facility Authority, is slated to be completed by fall 2009. It is also the first comprehensive nursing school to built in he state in decades, and the first ever in South Los Angeles. It is also the first building to be constructed on the campus in 25 years, added Susan Kelly, president and CEO of Charles Drew University.

Since the college was erected in 1971 following the Watts civil unrest, it has graduated more than 500 medical doctors, 2,5000 specialist physicians, 2,000 physician assistants, and hundreds of other–mainly minority–health professionals.