Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill this week that sets up a path to having a medical school in the central San Joaquin Valley, which leaves the potential for doctors to be trained at UC Merced.
The bill established the San Joaquin Valley Regional Medical Education Endowment Fund which allows for the collection of public and private donations to support the construction and operation of a medical school.
Assemlymember Adam Gray, D-Merced, who authored the bill, has pushed the plan to set up a school at UC Merced for years. In the summer, he and other community leaders held a medical education summit at UC Merced to highlight the severe doctor shortage and access to care issues that exist in the Valley.
The Valley has 157 MDs per 100,000 people, while the Bay Area has 411, according to a University of California report. The Valley is also in last place for any other licensed medical professional compared to anywhere else in the state.
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“The promise of a medical school in the Valley has been just talk and no action for too long,” Gray said. “I am committed to seeing this project through to the end. We need students from here and trained here so they will choose to practice medicine here.”
The report also said the construction of a medical school branch campus in the Valley could be a key solution to the decades-old problem. The bill sets a goal to support 50 students per class for 10 years.
The University of California at San Francisco’s training center in Fresno would be the immediate hub for Valley doctors, but other locations including UC Merced could offer training programs, according to Gray’s staff.
UC Merced Vice Chancellor Ed Klotzbier praised Gray for his “consistent support of UC Merced” and work to establish a Valley medical school.
“Through these efforts, we and our distinguished partners can lay a solid foundation to eventually support an accredited medical school, but only after permanent funding and resources are realized,” he said.