Dr. Keith Norris Conferred the Meritorious Achievement Award by the National Medical Association

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Norris Recognized for Challenging the Profession to Improve Healthcare and Medicine

"...Research should be conducted with compassion"

Keith C. Norris, M.D., FACP, Professor of Medicine, and Executive VP for Research and Health Affairs at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science (CDU) was the recipient of the Meritorious Achievement Award given by the National Medical Association (NMA) at its 2011 Annual Convention and Scientific Assembly for his life’s dedication to improving the health of millions of Americans. The Meritorious Achievement Award is given to an individual for noted national and international achievement and prominence.

“I am so grateful to the NMA for this award,” says Norris. “My family has enjoyed a long legacy in healthcare and education, and I’ve always wanted to do work that positively impacts the lives of my patients. But each patient has to be treated through his or her individual lens—a cookie cutter approach does not address the health challenges found in underserved communities.”
Norris and his family have had a long-standing history with the NMA. His great-grandfather, who was Chair of Surgery at Howard University, was president of the NMA 100 years ago. Norris has also been a strong advocate and supporter of the organization. From 1992-1996 he was the Chairman of its Nephrology Section and for the past ten years has been a member of the NMA Journal Editorial Board.

Dr. Norris is an internationally renowned clinical and translational research investigator and health policy leader who has been instrument in shaping national health policy and practice guidelines. He has been named one of “America’s Leading Doctors” by Consumer’s Research
Council of America annually since 2005. From 2009-2011, Norris ranked among the top 25 most highly funded NIH investigators in the nation with over $20 million per year for 2009-2011 and among the top three most cited scientists in the world in the area of chronic kidney disease (CKD) and health disparities. He has received numerous awards and honors including induction into the National Black College Alumni Hall of Fame in 2003 and for his work in hypertension and CKD. Norris has published over 225 peer-reviewed articles and textbook chapters, and is editor of the International Journal Ethnicity and Disease.

While extremely honored by the recognition he receives for his work, it is evident that Norris is driven to succeed. “I just want the world to be a better place,” he says. His goal is to set an example of excellence in research and health realms. His awards and accolades could afford Norris the opportunity to be associated with virtually any institution in the world, but his roots lie at CDU. “My preference is to remain at CDU. Other universities strive for excellence, but they do not have a mission that resonates with me like that of CDU.”

This mission also speaks to his greatest joy, which is working with students and community partners to transform the health of underserved communities. “I was very motivated by Ms. Mary Henry and Ms. Lillian Mobley, activists who were stalwart supporters of the University and the Watts community that surrounds CDU,” says Norris. These community leaders inspired him by their determination to establish the King-Drew Hospital, CDU and to further social, political and health agendas for residents of this area. “These women put so much energy into elevating the community. They were exceptional and under-recognized. I just want to follow along in those footsteps.”

Norris attended Cornell University and received his M.D. degree from Howard University School of Medicine where he was inducted into the Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Honor Society in 1980. He completed his residency training and chief residency in internal medicine, trained in nephrology and joined the faculty at UCLA in 1986. In 1990, he joined the CDU team and for the past 21 years has served in a variety of roles including: Vice Chair for the Department of Internal Medicine, Associate Dean of Research in the College of Medicine, and for a 16-month period of time, was Interim President of the University. During this ascent, Norris secured over $150M in research and educational grants, developed the CDU Life Sciences Institute, helped to increase resident board passing rates from 25% in 1991 to 100% in 2000 and, most recently, laid the foundation with several new cost saving and strategic plan initiatives to stabilize and prepare CDU for new growth potential. Fundamental to Norris’ vision and determination for the future of the University is the important research that is conducted at CDU to help understand, treat and ultimately eliminate health disparities.

Of paramount importance to Norris is the development of institutions and pipelines that not only focus on health and health-related research for minorities, but also ensure that the research be conducted with compassion. Norris is very adamant on this point. He feels that excellence is too often associated with arrogance. Compassion, for him, is a fundamental element and emanates from an understanding and awareness of the interdependency and interconnectivity of life. It brings about the opportunity for true greatness. His long-standing association with CDU is a testament to such as it is a mission based and seeks to transform underserved communities by training professionals who promote wellness and provide care with excellence and compassion.

Not one to rest on his laurels, Norris looks brightly to the future. He wants to be known as a translational scientist, one who brings basic research, clinical research and community based approaches to solve health issues. “I feel that CDU is well positioned to being one of the leading institutions to guide professionals to address the needs of underserved communities for health and wellness,” concludes Norris. “This resonates with me more than anything. There is so much work that still needs to be done.”

ABOUT CHARLES DREW UNIVERSITY OF MEDICINE AND SCIENCE:
CDU is a private nonprofit, nonsectarian, minority-serving medical and health sciences institution. Located in the Watts-Willowbrook area of South Los Angeles, CDU has graduated more than 550 medical doctors, 2,500 post-graduate physicians, more than 2,000 physician assistants and hundreds of other health professionals. The only dually designated Historically Black Graduate Institution and Hispanic Serving Health Professions School in the U.S., CDU is recognized as a leader in translational and health inequities research, specifically with respect to heart disease, diabetes, cancer, mental health, and HIV/AIDS. The university is among the top 7 percent of National Institutes of Health-funded institutions and rated one of the top 50 private universities in research in the U.S. Recently, the CDU/UCLA medical program was named the “best performer” in the University of California System with respect to producing outstanding underrepresented minority physicians. For more information, visit http://www.cdrewu.edu/

About the National Medical Association
Founded in 1895, the NMA is a non-profit organization that is the nation’s oldest and largest medical association representing the interest of more than 30,000 African American physicians and their patients. The NMA advocates health care for policies that would assure equitable and quality health care for all.

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