UC Regents’ Committees Authorize UC Merced to Continue Planning for Medical School

MERCED, CA - The University of California Regents' Committee on Educational Policy and Committee on Health Services today (May 14) unanimously authorized UC Merced to proceed with the next phase of planning for a School of Medicine.

As a result of the regents' endorsement, UC Merced will begin immediately to establish an office that will encompass all medical school planning efforts. The next phase of planning for the campus involves developing curriculum, planning for the infrastructure, and seeking faculty review and approval of the curriculum and the new school. UC Merced's aim is to submit a full proposal and business plan by the end of 2009.

"This is an exciting day for UC Merced, the San Joaquin Valley and California," said Chancellor Steve Kang. "With the regents' approval we will continue our comprehensive and consultative process of planning for a research-based medical school at UC Merced. The school is necessary to train physicians to meet the critical need for doctors in the state and medically underserved Valley. I thank the regents for their endorsement and wish to express sincere gratitude to the Valley community, including our elected officials and the Valley Coalition for UC Merced Medical School for their tremendous support."

Based on more than three years of planning led by UC Merced's Dean of Natural Sciences Maria Pallavicini, in September 2006, UC Merced submitted to the UC Office of the President a preliminary program proposal to establish a School of Medicine. The proposed school will help meet healthcare workforce demands by training physicians through expanded professional training in medical education and research. Current plans call for the enrollment of the first class of 32 students in 2013 though factors such as approval process, funding and hiring of leadership will affect the time line.

A projected shortfall of up to 17,000 physicians in California by 2015 will have an adverse and disproportionate impact on the rapidly growing San Joaquin Valley, where access to healthcare is already 31 percent lower than the state average. Access to specialists in the Valley is 51 percent lower than in the rest of the state.

In addition to improving access to health care, the UC Merced medical school is expected to generate positive economic benefits in the Valley considering that $845 million is spent annually by Valley residents on health care services delivered outside of the region.

Five advocates, including members of the Valley Coalition for UC Merced Medical School, told the regents today that the Valley's need for more physicians is a serious public policy issue that must be addressed. The representatives spoke to the widespread support in the Valley for a UC Merced medical school and recalled the history of UC Merced as a lesson in how perseverance prevails. Speaking were Bryn Forhan, a Fresno businesswoman and co-chair of the Valley Coalition; Lee Kolligian, a UCLA alumnus and son of former UC Regent Leo Kolligian; Luisa Medina, a board member of the California Partnership for the San Joaquin Valley; Larry Seigler, M.D., former regent and president of the UCLA Alumni Association and City of Fresno Councilmember Larry Westerlund, who is being called to active military duty and leaves later this week for Iraq.

UC Merced's School of Medicine builds on the campus' strong health sciences research base, leverages partnerships with UC Davis and UC San Francisco medical schools, and uses existing healthcare resources in the Valley. The UC Merced School of Medicine will be research-intensive with programs in basic and applied sciences and a signature program in population health with an emphasis on chronic disease and prevention and a particular focus on conditions pertinent to the Valley.

Plans call for a portion of the student program to take place on the UC Merced campus with the bulk of clinical instruction taking place in existing Valley hospitals and clinics. The first clinical campus is slated to be at the UCSF Fresno Medical Education Program where resources are already in place to train third- and fourth-year medical students. Additional clinical campuses in the Valley would be developed in the future. More than 20 of the largest community hospitals and health centers in the Valley have expressed interest in partnering with UC Merced on the new medical school.

At maturity, the proposed UC Merced School of Medicine is envisioned to have a total enrollment of 384 medical (MD) students and approximately 70 graduate (PhD) students.

Based on the preliminary proposal, in 2008-09, projected costs associated with planning the medical school are estimated to be approximately $2 million with funding provided by a gift from United Health Foundation. During 2009-2011, the campus estimates costs to be approximately $7 million, of which $2 million also is supported by the United Health gift. Annual increments will be needed to develop implementation plans and recruit the charter faculty during 2011 through 2013. At its planned opening in 2013, the new School of Medicine is anticipated to have an operating budget of $11 to $16 million.

At full enrollment and build out, annual operating costs associated with the medical school are estimated to be approximately $81 to $86 million (in 2007-2008 dollars). Funding would be provided by a combination of state funds and educational fees, professional school fees, clinic revenue, contracts, grants and gifts and endowments. Funds are also needed for buildings and infrastructure.

All budget numbers are estimated. UC Merced expects to refine budget plans over the next 12 to18 months.

UC Merced has already received new funds totaling more than $10 million to support several aspects of medical school planning and related biomedical research activities. UC Merced continues to be successful in raising funds from private sources recording more than $72 million since the inception of the campus. Authorization by the regents for continued planning for the proposed School of Medicine is instrumental to furthering the campus' fundraising efforts.

When submitted, UC Merced's final proposal and business plan will be subject to all customary review and approval requirements of the university and state, including final approval by the regents.

Summary

The regents' endorsement enables UC Merced to move forward plans to establish a School of Medicine, including creating a planning office; developing curriculum and a full proposal and business plan; planning for initial infrastructure; seeking faculty review and approval of the curriculum and new school; and launching a fundraising campaign. The campus anticipates submission of a formal proposal for a School of Medicine to the president of the University of California in approximately 12 to 18 months. Pending approvals and the commitment of new resources, the School of Medicine is proposed to open in 2013.

For more information on UC Merced's proposed School of Medicine, please visit http://med.ucmerced.edu.

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