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, Yale, Howard, UCLA, USC, Dalhousie University, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, the Centers for Disease Control, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Council of La Raza, the Getty Center, and the National Olmsted Conferences in Seattle, Washington, and 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 in 1995 as the Founding Director of Health Programs and took on the Executive Director role in November 2006. In her involvement with Esperanza Community Housing, Ms. Ibrahim rigorously developed the Promotoras de Salud (Community Health Promoters) model, which has graduated 438 bilingual community residents over the past nineteen years. As Executive Director, with her 30-staff team, Ms. Ibrahim is committed to addressing five major program areas: Affordable Housing, Health, Environmental Justice, Economic Development, and Art and Culture. Ms. Ibrahim’s efforts have been central to pioneering environmental health strategies in the region, and advancing the reputation of Mercado La Paloma, Esperanza’s economic development venue, as a cultural and culinary hub. Esperanza’s Community Health Promoters programs have engendered pioneering community health initiatives such as the South Los Angeles Healthy Homes Project, Better Neighborhood/Same Neighbors, the People Not Pozos campaign that challenges oil and gas extraction activities in residential neighborhoods, and the South Los Angeles Health and Human Rights Coalition. Ms. Ibrahim continues to receive numerous acknowledgements for her commitment to health and human rights and, more recently, will be honored with the 2015 UCLA Community Service award for her dedication to improving the health of low-income families in Los Angeles. Ms. Ibrahim received her Master of Public Health degree from UCLA, and has worked as a social justice activist in the field of women’s health and development for the past thirty 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 M.A., Th.D, is the founder and CEO of Healthy African American Families, Phase II (HAAF). As a “Community Gatekeeper”, Loretta Jones has dedicated her entire life pushing towards the hope and healing of community and society-at-large. Her career as a civil rights activist, health policy advocate, and social architect has spanned more than 40 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. Dr. Jones is an Associate Professor at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science (CDU) under the Community Faculty Prefix Series. She is the first African American non-medical woman to be a lead author in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). She is also published in Ethnicity & Disease and is a co-author on more than 50 peer-reviewed articles. She is a current and past co-investigator of numerous NIH and CDC research projects, including Community Partners in Care and Witness4Wellness. Dr. Jones was awarded the inaugural Ruth Roemer Social Justice Leader Award by the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, the 2014 Team Science Award from the Association for Clinical and Translational Science and the American Federation for Medical Research, the Dr. Nelle Becker-Slaton Pathfinder Award from the Association of Pan-African Doctoral Scholars, and the American Public Health Association (APHA) Community Based Public Health Caucus (CBPHC) Tom Bruce Award. She is also the recipient of the Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science President’s Award, the Black Caucus of Health Workers of the American Public Health Association (APHA) Community Service Award, and the National Community-Based Organization Network (NCBON) Lucille Webb Award.


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. He 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. He 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. He 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 Lucas-Wright, better known as Aziza, is a committed member of the first cohort of Community Faculty appointed at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science (CDU). Aziza holds a Master’s degree in Education in Child Development from Loyola Marymount University in Westchester, California. More, recently, she was the first of the cohort to apply for, and receive, a grant from CDU’s Center to Eliminate Cancer Health Disparities. This opportunity will enable her to conduct a pilot study in the faith community of which she has many years of experience. Aziza has taken on various roles in addressing health disparities and social determinants of health in the context of community engagement. As the Community/Academic liaison, Aziza has worked in partnership with numerous academic researchers to advance the aims of the NIH and many of its institutes. Aziza has been instrumental in developing bi-directional learning events that provide opportunities for shared growth and development of both community and academia relative to health disparities. Further, as an engagement specialist, Aziza has provided guidance and brokered entre into community for USC, UCLA, CDU and other research/academic institutions seeking Community Immersion and/or community participation for partnered research and translational science. In community, Aziza has over 40 years of experience providing exceptional administrative and executive functions to social service agencies in South Los Angeles. She is currently the Development Director for Avalon Carver Community Center, a not-for-profit community-based stalwart organization founded in 1949, providing a host of safety-net services to families ravaged by the effects of alcohol and other drug use. Based on the breadth of her work in the most marginalized and under-resourced communities in Los Angeles County, in 2010, Aziza was the recipient of the “First Ladies of Service” Award by LA Focus On the Word.


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.


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

A lifetime resident of Compton, California, Jovita Murillo attended schools in Watts and South Los Angeles before completing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Latin American and Latino Studies from the University of California, Santa Cruz and a Masters of Arts degree in Chicana/o Studies with an emphasis in Education and Social Welfare from the California State University, Los Angeles. Her experience working in social services—including an array of agencies like El Nido Family Centers, Children’s Hospital, El Centro del Pueblo, and South Central LAMP—committed Ms. Murillo to community advocacy aimed at improving the health outcomes for underserved communities. She is currently an administrator for the L.A. Care Health Plan Family Resource Center in Boyle Heights. Her role is to oversee the day-to-day operations of the center and establish free programming for low-income communities, thereby offering free health education and free physical activity classes to the community of Boyle Heights and the community of Los Angeles at large.


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. 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. Jaydutt Vadgama.


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). He has led multiple social justice efforts in South LA as an organizer for organizations such as TRUST South LA, for Strategic Actions for a Just Economy, Community Coalition, Coalition LA, and as a Public Ally. Andres is currently a Community Liaison at Community Health Councils. Through this organization he plans to improve the health of South Central/Southeast Los Angeles by empowering the community to actively engage in the development of infrastructure in their neighborhoods. Mr. Ramirez has committed his life and career to social justice and health equity.


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 both a Master’s 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 members and organizations from South Central and East Los Angeles to the Division of Cancer Research and Training at Charles R. Drew University. Dr. Waller serves as board chair of the Watts Healthcare Corporation, and is engaged with a network of 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, working with families of all ages through Community Outreach Program (COP), engaging members of the community in CDU’s Cancer Journal Club seminar series, engaging with Latino/Hispanic residents in the Latino Community Academic Council, as well as working with the prison population and other vulnerable populations.


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

Pluscedia Williams is working on a bachelor’s degree with a double major in Black Studies and Psychology at California State University Long Beach. She is a past president of the National Community Based Organizational Network (NCBON). She served as the first Community Co-Sessions Planner for the American Public Health Association, as an advisor for Healthy African American Families. Currently her roles include being: a community representative of the Scientific Advisory Council for the UCLA/LA Biomed Clinical and Translational Science Institute; a Community Faculty member at Charles R. Drew University (CDU), and a community representative on the Institutional Review Board at CDU. Pluscedia was also a community representative and outreach specialist on the Community Child Health Network study. She has received numerous certificates for participation at conferences and workshops and has been selected to represent community on several advisory boards. Ms. Williams has served as an expert in community engagement in the Los Angeles area and as a consultant for the Community Partners In Care (CPIC) project at the University of California, Los Angeles where she assisted in implementing the CPIC Village Clinic. CPIC received the 2014 Team Science Award from the Association for Clinical and Translational Science and the American Federation for Medical Research. With her extensive background in community engagement with patient populations and also being an individual that has personally suffered from depression, she will serve as a patient stakeholder in the Community Partnered Participatory Research Network (CPPRN). In this role, she will co-lead in the Los Angeles area bringing the voice and perspective of the patients and community to the project.


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.


Constance Kizzie-Gillett 
Founder, Lillie’s Care Circle 
Phone: (323) 447-6718 

Mrs. Constance Kizzie-Gillett is a strong advocate for Alzheimer’s patients and their caregiver’s. Mrs. Gillett’s mother Lillie was diagnosed in 2009 with Vascular Dementia and she is her mother’s primary caregiver.

Mrs. Gillett is the founder of a non-profit (Lillie’s Care Circle) and a small business “Lillie’s Circle of Care” that serves the Alzheimer’s community; both are named in her mother’s honor. She is involved in public health due to her mother’s illness. She is an active member of the American Public Health Association and serves on the Action Board.

Mrs. Gillett has recently launched a digital show CKG TV on which she interviews community “Change Agents” that are working in urban communities to bring about positive and move humanity forward. Currently, she is an alternate on the Intuitional Review Board at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science. Mrs. Gillett received a Master’s of Leadership from the University of Southern California.


Juanita Booker-Vaughns 
Community Faculty 
Phone: (951 )238-8231 

Dr. Booker-Vaughns long-term research and academic career objective is a fundamental desire to utilize her expertise as a researcher to better understand and eliminate health inequities in the United States, with a particular focus on racial and ethnic minorities living in the Western region of the country. The goal of improving health education and literacy as a necessary component of healthcare management and for measuring under-resourced communities-reported outcomes as requisite for better health, neighborhoods, equity, equality and quality improvement is both personal and professional. Her primary research interests involve investigating the neighborhood context as a unit of analysis to examine mechanisms by which economic, social, and structural determinants impact health and shape health inequities in minorities that have been diagnosed as overweight and obesity numbers that are at the root of commodities. She would also like to design and implement cancer, depression, autism, and violence interventions in SPA 6-LA, which is among the most vulnerable population in the U.S. Mrs. Booker-Vaughns also intends to use her research to inform the development of multi-pronged strategies that directly address the social and economic determinants. She has had the privilege of being a part of Community-Based and Community Partnered Participatory Research teams with RAND Corporation, Healthy African American Families II, UCLA, and CDU whose work in community was awarded the Community Outreach Program of the Year Award 2016, Community-based Public Health Caucus Dr. Thomas A. Bruce Award 2015, UCLA Landmark Award 2015, Community-Campus Partnerships for Health (CCPH) 2015, and the Team Science Award from the Association for Clinical and Translational Science and the American Federation for Medical Research, 2014.


Rachelle Bross, Ph.D., R.D. 
Nutrition Research Manager 
Phone: (310) 974-9538 

Dr. Bross has over 25 years of experience in nutritional science in education, research, and community. Her extensive skillsets have contributed to both, community and academic engagement in health and nutrition. Considering that health disparities associated to cardio-metabolic conditions stem from obesity-related health behaviors, nutritional science is a discipline that will support health education interventions in South Los Angeles, a community with an increasing obesity rate and cardio-metabolic conditions. Dr. Bross has actively supported the education of health professionals and developed curriculum for rotations in the VA clinic. Dr. Bross has published numerous peer-reviewed manuscripts and has actively presented her work in local and national conferences. She is familiar with the continued need for effective and ethical community-engaged partnerships. Her most recent activities with the CTSI have demonstrated a commitment to nutrition in areas like South Los Angeles.