UC Merced to Develop Health Sciences and Medical Education Programs in the San Joaquin Valley

UC Merced engages Valley community in plan to improve health of the region

MERCED, CA— The San Joaquin Valley of California has fewer primary care physicians than the statewide average; a higher incidence of health problems compared to other regions; and loses millions of dollars from the economy each year as local residents with health insurance seek care elsewhere. One of the University of California, Merced's long-term goals is to be a leader in a San Joaquin Valley health care and health sciences alliance, and to improve dramatically the well being of the diverse San Joaquin Valley communities.

UC Merced Chancellor Carol Tomlinson-Keasey announced that the university is currently in the process of developing health sciences programs and planning graduate medical education programs that are anticipated to lead to a school of medicine.

"A University of California School of Medicine that leverages medical education opportunities in the communities it serves will raise the level of care across the Valley, change perceptions about health care quality, keep health care dollars in the region and serve as an economic engine for the San Joaquin Valley," Tomlinson-Keasey said.

Over the next few months, Tomlinson-Keasey and UC Merced's Dean of Natural Sciences Maria Pallavicini will hold a series of meetings throughout the San Joaquin Valley to discuss emerging plans for UC medical education and health sciences programs in the region and engage stakeholders in the process (see schedule below). UCSF Fresno Associate Dean Joan Voris also will participate in the discussions. Meetings with UC Merced and UCSF Fresno faculty members were held in February.

"The San Joaquin Valley must be united in its efforts to develop a stellar medical education program that serves the health needs of local residents," said Pallavicini. "Biomedical and clinical research from the lab to the bedside and vice versa will catalyze new discoveries and allow scientists and physicians across the Valley to become leaders in research that will improve the health and well being of residents in the Valley, state and world."

In a recently released report, an expert panel charged with beginning planning for UC health sciences and medical education in the Valley recommended a regional distributed model of medical education based on partnerships with existing community health providers.

The group, which consisted of medical educators, community leaders and faculty members from UC Merced and the schools of medicine at UC San Francisco and UC Davis, UCSF Fresno and a number of national consultants, was formed in 2004 by David B. Ashley, executive vice chancellor and provost at UC Merced. The panel carefully considered a number of factors, including the health care challenges facing the Valley and unique aspects of UC Merced, particularly the campus' interdisciplinary programs, before making its recommendations.

Key benefits to the regional distributed model for UC medical education in the San Joaquin Valley include:

  • Training of students at UC Merced and clinical training sites throughout the region.
  • Leveraging existing health care resources and community partnerships in the Valley.
  • Bypassing the $2-4 million per bed price tag associated with a bricks and mortar teaching hospital, which is unrealistic in California's current financial climate.

In addition to outlining the regional distributed model for medical education in the Valley, the report also addresses the planned Biomedical Sciences and Systems Biology Research Institute, which is a critical component of building premier UC health sciences and medical education programs in the Valley.

"Health sciences and medical education programs in the UC system are built upon outstanding research programs in basic and applied sciences as well as innovative curricula," said Ashley. "These programs spark the advances that lead to better understanding of the causes, treatments, and in some cases, prevention of human diseases."

The University of California plays a critical role in providing health care to Californians and training health professionals in the state. It is the fifth largest health care delivery system in California. Currently, the UC system encompasses five schools of medicine at Davis, Irvine, Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco.

The announcement of UC Merced's plans to develop health sciences and medical education programs in the Valley marks the beginning of a process, which includes engaging the UC Office of the President, UC Board of Regents, governor, Legislature and Valley communities.

The following is a list of upcoming public meetings sponsored by UC Merced to involve community members in plans to improve the health of the Valley through research, medical education and community partnerships:

City Date Time Location
Fresno Monday, March 6 5:30 p.m. - 7 p.m. UCSF Fresno Center for Medical Education & Research
155 N. Fresno St.
Visalia Thursday, March 23 5:30 p.m. - 7 p.m. Visalia Convention Center, Sequoia A
303 E. Acequia Avenue
Modesto Monday, March 27 5:30 p.m. - 7 p.m. Great Valley Center
201 Needham Street
Merced Tuesday, April 11 5:30 p.m. - 7 p.m. UC Merced, Classroom Building, Room 116
5200 North Lake Road
Stockton Wednesday, April 12 5:30 p.m. - 7 p.m. University of the Pacific
Thomas J. Long School of Pharmacy and Health Sciences
Health Sciences Teaching & Learning Center, Rooms 110 and 111
7651 Brookside Road

Bakersfield Wednesday, April 19 5:30 p.m. - 7 p.m. UC Merced Bakersfield Center
2000 K Street

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