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Drew Medical School Alters Its Leadership

Times Staff Writers

Its future in question, the medical school affiliated with Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center has replaced its leadership team, including its interim president and the director of its physician training programs, officials said Tuesday.

Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science has named Dr. Thomas Yoshikawa as its acting president; he takes over from interim President Harry E. Douglas III. Yoshikawa, who has been chairman of internal medicine at King/Drew, also was named to the new position of provost and chief operating officer, effective July 1.

Los Angeles County pays Drew University about $12 million a year to oversee the training of doctors and provide some clinical care to patients at King/Drew, in Willowbrook, just south of Watts. In recent months, county officials have increased scrutiny of the university, with some members of the Board of Supervisors threatening to cut ties with the school unless it improves.

Bart Williams, chairman of the Drew University board of trustees, said the school was “putting the team in place that’s in the best position to focus entirely” upon garnering a positive review of its residency programs later this year.

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To that end, the school has appointed Dr. Nancy Hanna to oversee its residency training programs. Under the previous head, Dr. Sharon Ashley, national accreditors ordered the closure of three physician training programs -- in surgery, radiology and neonatology -- and rated the hospital’s oversight of its training programs among the worst in the nation.

Also, as previously announced, Dr. Marcelle Willock retired last week as medical school dean. Ronald Edelstein, senior associate dean for academic affairs, has been named to serve as acting dean.

In addition, Drew has elected Thomas M. Priselac, president and chief executive of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, to its board.

In a letter dated June 21, the senior medical director of the county Department of Health Services applauded Drew for “significant improvement,” but criticized the university for failing to turn over documents and failing to detail its plans to correct problems. The department sanctioned the school $1,000 on top of prior fines totaling $21,000.

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Drew’s graduate medical education office “must do more than simply list problems,” wrote Dr. Bruce Chernof. “It is incumbent upon the academic leadership of the university to address identified issues if the university hopes to pass” its accreditation visit in December. If it doesn’t pass the review from the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, all of the training programs could be shut down.

Drew’s Williams said the county was also out of compliance with the affiliation contract because King/Drew lost its national accreditation from the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations. But rather than assigning blame, he said, “we sincerely believe that the best solution is a cooperative agreement on the part of the county and Drew.”

The university has been without a permanent president since January 2004, when Dr. Charles Francis was forced out after a task force questioned his leadership and called for his ouster.

In an interview, Yoshikawa said he believed Drew was on the right track. Most of its training programs have been reaccredited, and its research funding continues to increase. “My role is to make sure that we continue in that positive mood and try to get things going,” he said.

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At the county board meeting Tuesday, however, Supervisor Mike Antonovich questioned the timing of Yoshikawa’s appointment, saying the county continues to investigate allegations that physicians in his department falsified time cards.

Dr. Thomas Garthwaite, the health department’s director, said he had reviewed the investigation and determined that Yoshikawa had raised concerns about the time card abuses.

“Dr. Yoshikawa was carrying out his duties in a proper manner,” Garthwaite said. “This is a very dedicated, ethical, hard-working individual who will apply himself in his new job in a similar manner as he has in the past.”

Supervisor Yvonne Brathwaite Burke, whose district includes King/Drew, said she believed Yoshikawa understood what accrediting agencies required. She also said he would earn the cooperation of doctors at the university. Even so, she said her colleagues on the board would probably be disappointed by Yoshikawa’s appointment because he had worked for years at the hospital.

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“I think that the only way they would have any confidence is if it’s someone they don’t know, or a name they haven’t heard,” Burke said. She suggested that the school continue searching for someone outside Drew to serve as its permanent chief.

Burke expressed disappointment at the university’s latest failure to comply with its county contract and said she had called school officials to complain.

“I’ve said to the school time and time again, ‘Get the information together and send the information that’s required in the contract,’ and I feel very strongly that they should be doing that,” Burke said. “If it’s in the contract, you have to provide it.”


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