UC Merced Submits Proposal to Establish Medical Education Program in the San Joaquin Valley
The University of California, Merced submitted a proposal
earlier this month 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.
UC Merced's plan is to establish a medical education program to address the disproportionate physician shortage in the Valley, with a particular emphasis on training physicians who are competent in multi-cultural health care and who are committed to serving the needs of the San Joaquin Valley. The proposed medical education program is based on academic partnerships and utilizes existing resources in the Valley and sister UC campuses.
"Recent projections indicate that the nation needs to increase the number of physicians by 30 percent over the next decade," said UC Merced Chancellor Carol Tomlinson-Keasey. "The Valley currently lags significantly in both primary care providers and specialists. Hence, a School of Medicine at UC Merced is critical to address the healthcare needs of California and the rapidly growing Central Valley."
"There is a compelling need for increased access to and availability of health care services in the Valley," said UC Merced Dean of Natural Sciences Maria Pallavicini. "The Valley has 25 percent fewer primary care physicians and substantially fewer specialists compared to California as a whole. We must take action now to ensure availability of health services in the future that will meet the needs of our diverse and rapidly increasing population."
UC Merced plans to work with UCSF and UC Davis to implement a regional model of medical education, the model recommended by a planning task force comprised of nationally recognized health education leaders. Preliminary plans call for the first two years of instruction to take place on the Merced campus with hands-on learning opportunities in local communities. Much of the third and fourth years of clinical training initially will be held in Fresno through the UCSF Fresno Medical Education Program, which currently trains 200 medical students throughout the year. Other clinical campuses, such as in Modesto, will be considered as the program grows.
"Much of the infrastructure that already exists at UCSF Fresno will be a critical component of providing training for third- and fourth year- UC Merced medical students," said Joan Voris, associate dean at UCSF Fresno, which graduates about 60
resident physicians each year. "We are very pleased to be a partner in plans to establish a comprehensive medical education program that leads to a UC School of Medicine in the Valley."
The current vision is to develop a medical education program with an initial class of 32 students, eventually reaching an enrollment of 384. A diverse group of students that reflects the demographics of the Valley will be developed through special programs aimed at increasing interest in and preparedness for entry into the medical profession.
The faculty structure will be a combination of full-time faculty, community physicians, and advanced medical residents. Approximately 15 full-time faculty members will be hired before the UC Merced program opens and their numbers will be supplemented as enrollment grows.
Facilities for the UC Merced medical education program will be developed in phases as program enrollment expands and the number of clinical campuses grows. Initially, facility requirements will include sites at the UC Merced campus and the UCSF Fresno Center for Medical Education and Research in Fresno.
Annual costs for the program administration and central support before admissions of the charter class are projected to average about $3 million. Annual operating costs for the medical education instructional program are estimated to be $13 million when the charter class of 32 students enters.
In addition to state monies, funding for the medical education program would come from campus fees, research grants, and non-state fees such as individuals, foundations, corporations and other sources.
"To support the new medical education program for the Valley, UC Merced will initiate a multi-million dollar fund-raising campaign to support funding for the medical school research, teaching facility, endowed chairs and student financial support," said Vice Chancellor for University Relations John Garamendi.
UC Merced has already secured more than $1.5 million in gifts to support a new biomedical sciences and systems biology research institute, which is developing on campus separately from medical education planning. The institute's state of the art technologies will support a major research theme in the medical education program: population-based health issues specific to the Valley. In addition, UC Merced expects to publicly announce in the near future a multi-million dollar gift to support medical education programs.
UC Merced's proposal, which may be refined based on recommendations from the UC Office of the President, must now be reviewed as part of the University of California's long-term planning process, which includes planning for growth in its health sciences programs. If approved by the UC system, the California Postsecondary Education Commission also must consider UC Merced's proposal.