The Accelerating Excellence In Translational Science (AXIS)Charles Drew University of Medicine and Science


Community Engagement is a crucial part of CDU’s translational research activities, and a unique program called the “Community Faculty” was implemented to increase research capacity through the collaborative integration of local expertise. The community faculty are made up of local organizers and leaders who are well tuned to the issues faced by their communities. Community Faculty members receive a faculty appointment at the university and are responsible for advancing a research agenda. They are not traditional academics, yet they possess an expertise crucial to the mission and success of the university. They also act as intermediaries between academic researchers and community members. Often, it is up to them to communicate a research project to their community in lay language, and allay participant fears regarding the conduct of research. The community faculty secure a stake in the research enterprise for the community.

Mission Statement Logo

Community Faculty Mission Statement

“Create Equity and Equality in Health and Wellness by Increasing Academic and Community Capacity through Collaborative Integration of Local Expertise.”


Robert García 
Founding Director/Counsel, The City Project 
Location: 1055 Wilshire Blvd., Ste. 1660, Los Angeles, CA 90017 
Phone: (213) 260-1035 

Robert García is an attorney who engages, educates, and empowers communities to achieve equal access to public resources. He is the Executive Director, Counsel, and founder of The City Project, a non-profit legal and policy advocacy organization based in Los Angeles, California. He received the President’s Award from the American Public Health Association in 2010. Hispanic Business Magazine recognized him as one of the 100 most influential Latinos in the United States in 2008, “men and women who are changing the nation.” He has extensive experience in public policy and legal advocacy, mediation, and litigation involving complex social justice, civil rights, human health, environmental, education, and criminal justice matters. He has influenced the investment of over $41 billion in underserved communities, working at the intersection of equal justice, public health and the built environment. He graduated from Stanford University and Stanford Law School, where he served on the Board of Editors of the Stanford Law Review. Mr. García has published and lectured widely on law and society. He has lectured on the vision for healthy parks, schools, and communities at the conference celebrating the 150th anniversary of Central Park in New York City; at the Second National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit; at public interest law conferences in Dublin, Ireland; and at conferences at Stanford, Harvard, Howard, UCLA, USC, the Getty Center, the national Olmsted Conference in Seattle, Washington, and the Olmsted Conference in Portland, Oregon. Cardinal Roger Mahony appointed him to the Justice and Peace Commission of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. He is a Senior Fellow at the UCLA School of Public Policy and Social Research.


Nancy Halpern-Ibrahim 
Executive Director, Esperanza Community Housing Corp. 
Phone: (213)748-7285 ext. 11 

Nancy Halpern Ibrahim joined Esperanza Community Housing Corporation in 1995 as the founding Director of Health Programs. Ms. Ibrahim went on to design Esperanza’s model Community Health Promoters Program, which generated pioneering community health collaboratives in the community. Among these collaboratives are The Los Angeles Healthy Homes Project /Proyecto Hogares Saludables, Rescatando Salud/ Health Rescue Immunization Collaborative and Sonrisas de Esperanza/ The Esperanza Smiles Dental Collaborative impact environmental health and slum housing, early childhood immunizations, and oral hygiene, respectively. Ms. Ibrahim is a founding board member of the Coalition for Community Health the Southern California Healthy Homes Collaborative. She is also on the Founding Board of Trust South L.A. (formerly known as the Figueroa Corridor Community Land Trust). In May 2006, Ms. Ibrahim received the “Helen Rodriguez Trias Award for Excellence in Community Based Women’s Health Leadership” from the California State Office of Women’s Health. In 2003, Ms. Ibrahim was welcomed into the UCLA School of Public Health’s Alumni Hall of Fame, recognizing her “outstanding accomplishments in community based health programs, including community health education and training.” Ms. Ibrahim received her Master of Public Health degree from UCLA, and has worked in the field of women’s health and development for the past twenty years.


Loretta Jones, M.A. 
Founder/CEO, Healthy African American Families II 
Location: 4305 Degnan Blvd., Ste. 105, Los Angeles, CA 90008 
Phone: (323)-292-2002 
Fax: (323)-292-6121 

Loretta Jones earned a Masters Degree in Criminal Justice. She is the founder and CEO of Healthy African American Families, Phase II (HAAF). Her career as a civil rights activist, health policy advocate, and social architect has spanned more than 30 years. In an effort to level the playing field for all people, Ms. Jones continues her unyielding commitment as a change agent against disparities in human health, development, and opportunity. Ms. Jones’ research interests include pre-term pregnancy, mental health, diabetes, men’s health, women’s health, and kidney disease. She is a co-investigator of the NIMH UCLA/RAND Center for Research on Quality in Managed Care, NIA UCLA Center for Health Improvement in Minority Elders, and the NIH CDU/UCLA Project EXPORT, as well as CDC grants and contracts. Ms. Jones has received numerous awards and honors, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Award for National Contribution to Minority Health Programs, the NAACP William Montague Cobb Award, the Rose Award from Senator Curren D. Price, Jr., the Charles R. Drew University of Medicine & Science President’s Award, the Black Caucus of Health Workers of the American Public Health Association Community Service Award, and the National Community-Based Organization Network (NCBON) Lucille Webb Award. She has co-authored more than 40 articles, including two in JAMA, and three special issues of Ethnicity & Disease. Ms. Jones is recognized as a community engagement expert, with more than 200 presentations locally, nationally, and internationally.


David P. Lee, M.S.W., M.P.H. 
PATH-PrEP Project Director, UCLA Care Center 
Location: 1807 E. 120th St., Los Angeles, CA 90059 
Phone: (323) 563-5802 

David P. Lee currently serves as the UCLA/OASIS Clinic PATH PrEP Project Director, overseeing an HIV prevention project. Mr. Lee also serves as the Ryan White Part C Program Director for OASIS Clinic on a part-time basis. He previously lived in Lima, Peru, where he studied Spanish and worked at a large NGO coordinating U.S. government grant writing activities focusing on HIV research and training and also served as a training advisor and mentor for visiting scholars. Mr. Lee previously worked as the Washington State Training Manager for the Northwest AIDS Education and Training Center and also worked as an engagement and adherence specialist at the Madison Clinic at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. He has worked with the HIV Vaccine Trials Network at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle where he was actively involved in developing and implementing that organization’s first vaccine study and was responsible for training staff at several domestic and international study sites. David P. Lee is the past chair of the Washington State Governor’s Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS.


Anna “Aziza” Lucas-Wright, M.Ed. 
Project Associate, RAND Corporation 
Location: 1700 Main St. Santa Monica, CA 90407 
Phone: (323)-294-2816 
Fax: (323)-299-3287 

Anna “Aziza” Lucas-Wright holds a Masters of Education in Child Development from Loyola Marymount. She has over 30 years of experience providing exceptional administrative and executive functions to social service agencies in South Los Angeles. Some of those services include the provision of training and staff development to projects and agencies in Los Angeles County’s Service Planning Area 6; the most marginalized and underserved geographic area in the County. Ms. Lucas-Wright’s expertise includes community engagement, cultural competency, and working with faith-based institutions. She is the Co- Principal Investigator of a pilot grant through the Charles R. Drew University Center to Eliminate Cancer Health Disparities, where she is assessing cancer prevention knowledge within 7 faith-based institutions. She is an administrator and community engagement specialist for the NIH-funded Community Partners In Care Project. Ms. Lucas-Wright has conducted presentations in the areas of cultural competency, personal efficacy, provider self-care, and community safety. She sits on numerous boards and committees, including the Research Centers in Minority Institutions Translational Research Network External Advisory Committee, Center for Health Improvement for Minority Elders Advisory Committee, Los Angeles Community Academic Partnership for Research in Aging, Healthy Communities Neighborhood Initiative Steering Committee, and Cancer Disparities Community-Academic Council. Ms. Lucas Wright is a co-author of manuscripts on community engagement.


Charles McWells 
Chairperson, Grace United Methodist 
Location: 4112 W. Slauson Ave. Los Angeles, CA 90043 
Phone: (323)-973-9143 

A native of Los Angeles, Charles McWells is a graduate of Claremont Men’s College. In 1996, he was diagnosed with AIDS and told that he had less than two years to live. Convinced that God had other plans for him, Mr. McWells has dedicated the past ten years of his life to raising HIV/AIDS awareness within the African American community. Following stints as a program administrator for several HIV research projects at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science, and the Minority AIDS Project, he became Chairperson of Grace United Methodist Church’s HIV/AIDS Ministry in April 2009. His research focuses on training health care professionals to help patients change behaviors that put them at risk of acquiring or transmitting HIV. Mr. McWells’ community leadership activities include serving as Co-Dean of the United Methodist Church’s Strength for the Journey HIV/AIDS Retreat, Co-Host of the Division of Community Engagement of Charles R. Drew University’s “Good News Radio Magazine,” a live, weekly radio broadcast on KTYMAM 1460, Vice President of the Black Los Angeles AIDS Coalition, Executive Committee member of the National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day Coalition – Los Angeles, and Vice President of the United Methodist Men’s Ministry at Grace United Methodist Church. Mr. McWells has presented at numerous conferences and forums on topics such as HIV/AIDS Ministry as a Community-Level Intervention and Integration of HIV/AIDS, mental health, substance abuse, and spirituality. On July 23rd, 2011, Mr. McWells was presented with the “Unsung Heroes Award” at the NAACP’s 102nd convention.


D’Ann Marie Morris 
Deputy Neighborhood Officer - Health, Los Angeles Urban League 
Location: 3450 Mount Vernon Drive Los Angeles, CA 90008 
Phone: (323)-545-9296 
Fax: (323)-545-9294 
Email: D'  

D’Ann Morris holds a Masters in Public Administration. She is the Deputy Neighborhood Officer of Health (DNO) for the Los Angeles Urban League (LAUL). Ms. Morris developed and spearheads the Neighborhoods@Work Health Collaborative comprised of public, private and community resident partners. In her 30+ years as a health advocate and community leader, Ms. Morris is an expert collaborator in the development of a holistic and innovative approach to tackling health barriers and positively impacting the attitudes, behaviors and conditions of neighborhood residents. Ms. Morris is the Co-Principal Investigator of a pilot project entitled “Community Needs Assessment for Patient Navigation for Cancer Detection, Treatment and Control” funded through Charles R. Drew University Center for Cancer Disparities. Her community outreach work has been featured in several newspapers, newscasts, and talk radio productions. Ms. Morris’s wealth of experience also comes through having previously served as the Manager for the Children’s Health & Wellness Department at Crystal Stairs, Inc.; Executive Director at California Family Health Council, Inc.; Branch Director for the YWCA of Greater Los Angeles; and Director of Member Services for Watts Health Center. Ms. Morris has received several awards including the “Incredible Women Marking History xhibit,” Unsung “Sheroes” by the Greater Los Angeles YWCA, “103 Most Influential People in the Crenshaw Community”, “Eureka Fellow,” of the Eureka Communities, the Tavis Smiley Foundation Volunteer of the Year, a “Living Legend Award” from the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. Ms. Morris serves on a number of community and research boards, including the UCLA/CHIME/Project Export Community Advisory Board, Healthy African American Families II Board of Directors, Celebrate Life Cancer Ministry Board, Charles R Drew University Continuing Medical Education Advisory Committee, and the Cancer Community-Academic Council. She has co-authored on several papers and made numerous presentations locally and nationally.


Jovita Murillo 
Family Resource Administrator, LA Care 
Phone: (213) 294-2838 

A lifetime resident of the City of Compton, Jovita Murillo attended schools in the Watts/South LA area before completing a Bachelor of Arts in Latin American and Latino Studies with an emphasis in education. She, then, completed a Masters in Chicana/o Studies with an emphasis in Education and Social Work from California State University, Los Angeles. Her experience working with families experiencing social hardships and poor health outcomes includes an array of social service agencies like El Centro del Pueblo, Children’s Bureau, South Central LAMP, and Rebekah Children’s Services, which provides Ms. Murillo with a commitment to community engagement and family wellbeing. She is currently the Intervention Specialist at El Nido Family Services for Children’s Hospital. Her interests include social justice and community engagement for youth identified as “at risk,” teen mothers (both pregnant and parenting), and families experiencing social and health difficulty. She plans to partner with California Latinas for Reproductive Justice and El Nido Family Services to look at the health and socio economic impacts of teen pregnancy to develop and test an efficacy program.


Martha Navarro 
Research Associate/Community Health Promoter (Promotora de Salud)/Health Navigator CDU 
Location: 1731 E. 120th St., Los Angeles, CA 90059 
Phone: (323) 563-4865 

Ms. Navarro’s dedication and hard work as a promotora/health navigator and researcher has been integrally responsible for the success of several community-based participatory research projects engaging the Latino community of South Los Angeles. Her previous work has included participation on the Diabetes Health Literacy Augmentation in Multi-cultural Populations (Diabetes Health LAMP) funded by AHRQ and the South Los Angeles Breast Health Promotion Project funded by CMS/DHS. Both studies resulted in the development of innovative health communications venues to promote health literacy. Both involved partnerships with the South Central Family Health Center and has allowed Ms. Navarro to develop a strong working relationship with the largest non-profit clinic in South Central, LA. In large part this is due to her affability, kindness and respectfulness for which she has earned the admiration and respect of her supervisors and peers. Most recently, Ms. Navarro joined the NCI funded CDU/UCLA Cancer Center Partnership and facilitated the engagement of a Spanish speaking Latino Community Academic Council with her faculty partner, Dr. James Smith, and community partner, Dr. Rev. Joe Waller under the direction of Dr. Jay Vadgama. Ms. Navarro brings her insights as a community leader in South LA as well as her experiences as a breast cancer survivor to the Division of Cancer Research and Training Partnership at CDU.

Research Interest: health disparities, Hispanic, community outreach, education, and research


Andres Ramirez 
Mobility Community Liaison, Community Health Councils South Los Angeles 
Phone: (310) 936-3781 

As the first generation son of Salvadorian migrants, Andres Ramirez was born and raised in South Los Angeles and attended the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), where he completed a Bachelor of Arts in History and Chicana/o Studies. While at UCLA, Mr. Ramirez chaired many university wide organizations that focused on community organizing, activism, and social justice. He has led multiple efforts in South LA as the Community Organizing Consultant for TRUST South LA, Tenant Organizer for Strategic Actions for a Just Economy, Youth Organizer for Community Coalition, Community Organizer for Coalition LA, and as a Public Ally. He is currently the Mobility Community Liaison at Community Health Councils where he plans to build a pedestrian and cyclist movement in Southeast Los Angeles in order to empower the community to actively engage in the development and infrastructure their neighborhoods. Mr. Ramirez has committed his life and career to social justice.


Norma Stoker-Mtume 
Associate Director/Chief Financial Officer, Shields for Families 
Location: 11601 S. Western Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90047 
Phone: (323) 578-2348 

Norma Stoker Mtume holds a Masters degree in Health Sciences with an emphasis in Substance Use Disorders and Program Administration and a Masters degree in Marital and Family Therapy with a specialization in working with African American families. She is the Co-founder and Chief Financial/Operations Officer for SHIELDS for Families, a 24 year-old nonprofit organization serving families who reside in South Los Angeles. Ms. Mtume is also the Co-founder of UMMA Community Clinic in South Los Angeles, two other social service agencies, and two additional free/community clinics. She has over 40 years of experience planning, implementing and administering programs in underserved communities in Los Angeles, Oakland, and Berkeley, California. She is a Community Instructor at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science. Mrs. Mtume’s interest is in a broad-based approach to family systems medicine and the integration of primary care and behavioral health, particularly in African American and Latino communities. She is especially interested at this time in the implementation of integrated care as a result of the Affordable Care Act (Healthcare Reform) and has been acquiring skills in this area over the past five years for the purpose of developing curriculum to train medical and behavioral health professionals on topics related to integrated services. She has been a guest speaker for radio on multiple occasions, where she discussed the impact of chronic illness on the family and the community and healthcare reform and its relevance to reducing disparities in the South Los Angeles community. She has presented in classroom settings, conferences, and community forums. In 2012, Ms. Mtume received the “Maya Angelou Award” from the Coalition of Mental Health Professionals for being an inspirational leader in community healthcare and working to eliminate healthcare disparities. She was also recognized in 2012 by the California Black Women’s Health Project and received the “Women Who Dared: Our Legacy & Our Future Award” for leadership work in the field of women’s health.


Rev. Joe Waller 
Pastor, Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church 
Location: 1731 E. 120th St., Los Angeles, CA 90059 
Phone: (323) 563-4849 

Reverend Dr. Joe Waller has a Masters and Doctoral Degree (PhD) from Bible Believer Christian College and Seminary. Currently, he is the Reverend for the Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church in South Los Angeles. Through his role as a Reverend, Dr. Waller brings an enormous diverse network of community and organizations in South, Central, and East Los Angeles to the Division of Cancer Research and Training at Charles R. Drew University. Dr. Waller serves on the Watts Healthcare Corporation, and is engaged with a network of other pastors/reverends within the California Missionary Baptist State Convention, Pacific District Missionary Baptist Association and the Ministers Conference of Southern California. His experience with engaging members of the community is diverse and impressive, it includes: working with the elderly through the research CMS project, families of all ages through COP (Community Outreach Program), Project COPE, engaging members of the faith community to CDU’s Cancer Journal Club seminar series, engaging Latino/Hispanic congregants into the Latino Community Academic Council as part of the Division’s Community Outreach activity, and work involving prisons and vulnerable populations to name a few. In addition, his outspoken passion for working towards alleviating cancer health disparities in our SPA6 community is extremely commendable. He has described his experience both in family and among his congregants battling cancer, and demonstrated a highly enlightened and knowledgeable approach towards addressing cancer.

Research Interest: health disparities, community outreach, education, and research


Pluscedia Williams 
Community Member 
Location: 4305 Degnan Blvd., Ste 105, Los Angeles, CA 90008 
Phone: (310)-892-0654 
Fax: (562)-633-7728 

Pluscedia Williams has dedicated her life to helping and working for her community and church; she is a true community advocate. She brings expertise in the area of community engagement through her involvement in community-academic research collaboratives, such as the pre-term and diabetes working groups, as well as the Cancer Community-Academic Council. Ms. Williams has received numerous certificates for participation in conferences and training workshops. Locally, Ms. Williams is a member of the Charles R. Drew University Institutional Review Board, and is an advisor for Healthy African American Families II. Nationally, Ms. Williams is a member of the RTRN IRB Harmonization Sub-Committee and is the President Elect of the American Public Health Association’s National Community-Based Organizations Network. She has developed a leadership development and behavior modification program, entitled “Positive Living by Understanding Self” and has given presentations at national conferences and forums. She is a co-author on a manuscript that is under review. Ms. Williams describes herself as a product of the community and one who speaks from the heart.


Angela Young-Brinn, M.B.A. 
Deputy Director, JDP Foundation 
Location: 575 E. Hardy St.;Ste.205, Inglewood, CA 90301 
Phone: (562)-209-0713 

Angela Young-Brinn has a Masters in Business Administration and is the Director of Programs and Outreach for the John D. Pacada (JDP) Foundation and is the past Deputy Director of Healthy African American Families II, a community-based, non-profit agency whose mission is to improve the health outcomes of minority communities. Ms. Young-Brinn is presently collaborating on a proposal titled “Project STRIVE (Support to Involve, Reunite, and Value Each Other)” the area proposed is Los Angeles County and its surrounding communities. This study addresses a problem of enormous importance, finding ways to deter recidivism that can lead to healthier developmental trajectories into adulthood for ethnic and racial minority youth. A disproportionate number are in the juvenile justice system. Ms. Young-Brinn’s prior research experience includes the Community Child Health Network (a project aimed at promoting healthier pregnancies and birth outcomes in South Los Angeles), Community Partners in Care (a study aimed at addressing mental illness in South Los Angeles), the LA County Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program (community educational outreach program to disseminate information about lead poisoning and hazards), and the Community-Academic Diabetes Collaborative (a working group designed to develop partnered research projects and action plans). Her research interests include diabetes prevention and education, hypertension, and improving health literacy within communities of color. She brings strong leadership and a commitment to bridging the communication gap between academia and community, with the goal of facilitating community-partnered research that improves community well-being.