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UC Merced Receives $5 Million Donation to Help Create Medical Education Program

July 26, 2006
Donation from United Health Foundation Will Support Long-Term Goal of Establishing School of Medicine

The University of California, Merced has been named to receive a $5 million charitable donation from United Health Foundation to assist in the development of medical education and related health-sciences programs, the university said today (July 27).

The grant, to be distributed over the next three years, will be used to continue detailed planning, conduct feasibility studies and hire personnel to establish a structured UC Merced medical education program on a pathway to a medical school.

United Health Foundation, the charitable giving arm of United HealthCare Group, made the donation as part of a $50 million initiative to help meet the growing healthcare needs of underserved groups and communities in California. UC Merced was chosen because of its location in the heart of the San Joaquin Valley, a region of the state with a significant shortage of physicians, a high incidence of health problems and rapid population growth. UC Riverside also received a $5 million grant from United Health Foundation for similar purposes.

“Thanks to this generous gift, we are one step closer to training the next generation of top physicians who are both competent in multi-cultural medicine and committed to serving the unique needs of the San Joaquin Valley,” said UC Merced's Dean of Natural Sciences Maria Pallavicini. “Establishing a UC Merced School of Medicine will help address the health care needs of California and our rapidly growing and diverse population.”

UC Merced submitted a preliminary proposal in June to the UC Office of the President to establish a medical education program leading to a School of Medicine in the San Joaquin Valley. If approved, UC Merced will enter its first class of medical students within the next ten years.

A comprehensive medical education program is needed in the San Joaquin Valley to address the disproportionate physician shortage in the region. UC Merced's proposed medical education program is based on academic partnerships and utilizes existing resources in the Valley and sister UC campuses.

UC Merced opened September 5, 2005, as the 10th campus in the University of California system and the first American research university to open in the 21st century. The campus significantly expands access to the UC system for students throughout the state, with a special mission to increase college-going rates among students in the San Joaquin Valley. It also serves as a major base of advanced research and as a stimulus to economic growth and diversification throughout the region. Situated near Yosemite National Park, the university is expected to grow rapidly, topping out at approximately 25,000 students within 30 years.