Urban Health Equity Pathway

Developing leaders committed to improving health in historically marginalized communities with inequitable access to healthcare.

A group of graduating UCLA/CDU Medical Education Program students at the 2022 DGSOM commencement ceremony.

We are excited to announce the Urban Health Equity Pathway, a new chapter in the over 40-year partnership between the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA (DGSOM) and the Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science (CDU)! We began this partnership in creating the UCLA/CDU Medical Education Program (MEP) in 1981.

The program develops leaders who advance medical practice and knowledge in underserved areas in the United States and abroad. The program has graduated over 800 physicians to date. In October 2022, CDU received approval to establish the first medical school in South Los Angeles with an inaugural 2027 class.

This planned outcome of the MEP is an achievement that was made possible, in part, by the tremendous success of the CDU/UCLA MEP program. Both CDU and DGSOM have undergone transformative changes over the past 40 years, and realize that we are now in a position to transform what has historically existed as the CDU/UCLA MEP into a new partnership that reflects the evolution of both institutions, as well as the changes in medicine and society. Leadership at both institutions are committed to ensuring the continuation of our valuable collaboration and the success of our new educational partnership. The traditional MEP program will transition with the DGSOM Class of 2027. We will launch the Urban Health Equity Pathway (Pathway) beginning with the class of 2028.

What is the Urban Health Equity Pathway?

The Pathway is a curricular and experiential program to advance health, research, and medical practice for urban underserved communities, focusing on South Los Angeles. The program is geared toward students who are interested in health equity, health disparities, urban underserved medicine, and social justice. Pathway students are selected each year through a competitive application process. As part of the Pathway, students build longitudinal relationships with DGSOM and CDU faculty as well as community partner organizations. Those who complete all requirements of the Pathway will have details of their achievement noted in their MSPE (Dean’s Letter).

The Pathway engages students in the following experiences throughout their medical school experience:

  • Community Service – Learners interact with community-based organizations in South Los Angeles. This real-world experience is facilitated by DGSOM, CDU, and community partners and is designed to provide students with an early experience of health care in urban underserved areas.
  • Discovery – A year for scholarly research with dedicated Pathway advisors with expertise in health disparities research. Future learners may opt to complete a Master’s degree offered at UCLA. 
  • Electives – Pathway-specific electives at UCLA and CDU.

Year 1

Foundations; Curriculum + Community Service

Year 2


Year 3

Discovery / Dual Degree

Year 4


Core Competencies of the Pathway

In addition to DGSOM competencies, medical students in the Pathway will also achieve the following competencies.

  • Cultural Competency and Humility - Understand the structural and social determinants of health and the impact of cultural beliefs and practices on health outcomes.
  • Health Equity – Understand the root causes of health inequities and strategies to promote health equity.
  • Interprofessional Collaboration – Develop skills to collaborate effectively with other healthcare professionals providing comprehensive care, and treating the ‘whole person’.
  • Community Engagement – Collaborate with community-based organizations, local leaders, and patients to understand the needs of the community.
  • Health Promotion & Disease Prevention – Understand effective strategies to promote healthy behaviors and prevent disease for at-risk populations.
  • Patient-Centered Care – Provide patient-centered care that is sensitive to the unique needs of the urban underserved population. Develop culturally appropriate treatment plans.
  • Advocacy – Advocate for health equity, access to care, and social justice as well as understanding the role of public health policies in improving health outcomes.

Requirements of the Pathway

  1. Community Service is the first activity associated with the Urban Health Equity Pathway. Learners typically complete their service by the end first year of medical school. The service is comprised of real-life experiential learning as well as self-reflection and facilitated conversations with faculty.
  2. Discovery year preparation begins as early as the first year of medical school. Learners explore the areas of research, engage with faculty mentors, and select a research project for their Discovery year. Learners complete the required number of research hours and a capstone project.
  3. Future learners may opt to complete a Master’s degree offered at UCLA. 
  4. Complete pathway-specific elective courses.

Additional activities (optional)

  • Community Clinic Association of Los Angeles County – Annual Health Care Symposium
  • Health Disparities Research

Application Process

Applications for the Urban Health Equity Pathway are included in the general DGSOM application and submitted concurrently. Late applications will be considered on a case-by-case basis. If you have questions, please contact the DGSOM Admissions Office: somadmiss@mednet.ucla.edu.

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