Educational leaders and healthcare professionals from South Los Angeles met on the CSUDH campus this week to sign the Compton Community Health Professions Partnership that will promote healthcare careers among secondary, undergraduate, and graduate students, and address persistent disparities in healthcare outcomes for local communities of color.
Representatives from Compton Unified School District (CUSD), Compton College, Charles Drew University, St. John’s Community Health, and Kedren Health joined Assemblymember Mike Gipson (CA-65) and CSUDH President Thomas A. Parham for a signing ceremony at the Leo F. Cain Library.
“I’m a firm believer that without vision, the people will perish,” Gipson said. “What we’re setting up through this partnership is a gateway for young people to achieve their goals in medicine and science. We want them to be able to get educated here and then do their residencies here.”
David M. Carlisle, president and CEO of Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science, called the signing ceremony a momentous occasion. “This is where the future of health and healthcare is going to start for the communities of South Los Angeles, for Greater Compton, and for all the communities around them,” he said.
“This progression from secondary school to community college to four-year colleges to graduate schools to employers like St. John’s—there is no partnership like this anywhere else in the country. This is a lesson that every other state can take advantage of and learn from.”
Jim Mangia has headed St. John’s Community Health for more than two decades, helping expand it from a small single-site clinic to a network of 20 healthcare centers and mobile clinics serving Compton and neighboring communities across South and East Los Angeles.
“St. John’s started a black maternal and infant health program close to a year ago because it was clear that no matter what interventions were being done, those birth outcomes and those maternal health outcomes were not improving,” Mangia said.
“This partnership is a major step in recognizing racism as a public health issue. We need African American and Latinx doctors treating the population of South Los Angeles and Compton if we want to address this issue more effectively.”
In addition to a strong social justice component, the agreement needs to address basic economic realities. “I was born and raised in Compton. I’m a prime example of what it looks like to grow up here and work in the community,” said Keith Curry, president and CEO of Compton College.
“If we want our graduates to live and work in their local communities, we need to make sure they can afford to do so. All of that needs to be part of the conversation.”
Parham thanked his co-signatories for their hard work in creating a partnership that seeks to resolve long-standing inequities.“These problems are not new, and I must ask this question. How can we silently bear witness to the suffering of people in Compton and across South Los Angeles and expect to maintain our humanity?”
Parham said the partnership is a decisive step toward ending that silence. “Assemblymember Gipson mentioned that without a vision, the people perish. I think that’s true. I would only add that without a voice, the people suffer. It’s that voice we want you to hear in this agreement we’re signing today.”