Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas held a ribbon cutting ceremony Thursday for the Avis & Mark Ridley-Thomas Wellness Center at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science.

The wellness center will be co-located with a new APLA Health Center in a 10,000-square-foot building. It will provide students, faculty and staff with urgent care, mental health counseling and wellness programs, but will focus on counseling services that help students’ emotional well-being and success. The private, nonprofit university is located in Willowbrook and is committed to fostering diversity in the health profession and achieving social justice and health equity for underserved communities through education, clinician service and community engagement, according to Ridley-Thomas’ office.

In 2017, the university ranked as the second-most diverse four-year private nonprofit college in the U.S., according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.

“Councilmember Mark Ridley-Thomas and Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science have been change agents for Willowbrook and the surrounding communities for decades,” said Dr. David M. Carlisle, president and CEO of CDU. “It is very fitting that a building on our campus dedicated to improving health outcomes for students and underserved populations for decades to come will bear the Ridley-Thomas name.”

The event Thursday, which also celebrated Ridley-Thomas’ 30 years in public service, featured remarks from Los Angeles County Supervisor Holly Mitchell and Rev. James M. Lawson Jr., as well as a conversation between Ridley-Thomas and his wife — Days of Dialogue Executive Director Avis Ridley-Thomas — along with Rep. Karen Bass and Professor Cornel West. The conversation was moderated by ABC7 Eyewitness News co-anchor Marc Brown.

“When I embarked on this journey three decades ago, I could never have imagined the enormity and dynamism of the challenges we would face, nor did I anticipate the resilience and ingenuity of the countless friends and colleagues with whom I have collaborated,” Ridley-Thomas said.

“My personal commitment and my governing philosophy has always been to be asset-based. And there is no better example of what can be accomplished than the transformation of the Willowbrook community over the past decade. The new facilities, both on the Martin Luther King Jr. Medical Campus and at Charles Drew University, exemplify a profound commitment to community empowerment — we have focused on mental health, recovery, trauma prevention, rehabilitation and the other essential wraparound services that promote long-term wellness.

“Avis and I could not be more proud that our names will accompany the new Wellness Center on the CDU campus — a location focused on ensuring that CDU students will be properly cared for, just as they prepare to care for others.”

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