Opinion Columns & Blogs

Commentary: Filling in blanks for UC Merced medical school

Dr. Fred Meyers is executive director of medical education and academic planning at UC Merced.
Dr. Fred Meyers is executive director of medical education and academic planning at UC Merced.

We, at UC Merced, are grateful for the robust support for the development of a new University of California medical school that will serve the Valley and California.

We are especially thankful for the engagement of our elected officials and the Valley Coalition in this important issue.

As we continue our medical school planning process, ongoing support will be vital to our progress and to realizing the shared goal of developing one of the best medical education programs in the country, which will contribute to improved health and quality medical care for Valley residents.

Noteworthy developments have occurred recently in the planning process that are worth sharing.

At UC Merced’s request in January, consultants with the Washington Advisory Group released a report identifying a series of steps aimed at advancing the campus and the Valley toward the goal of an independently accredited medical school.

The report recommended the development of a stand-alone medical school at UC Merced in three phases:

1) establish an undergraduate program to attract exceptional students to study health sciences.

2) develop a medical education program in partnership with an existing UC medical school.

3) become a fully independent medical school after having initially functioned in conjunction with an existing UC medical school and at a time when the economy is more favorable.

In early February, recognizing the great health needs that exist in the Valley, UC President Mark Yudof authorized development of a health sciences undergraduate program at UC Merced and he approved UC Merced to plan initially for a branch medical campus in partnership with an existing UC medical school.

The simultaneous development of the undergraduate program and medical education program and branch medical campus will lead to an independently accredited UC Merced School of Medicine.

Throughout the planning process, faculty will continue to be the driving force. Faculty will be responsible for developing the curriculum for both the undergraduate health sciences program and the new medical education program, and I will work closely with them to identify and provide community-engagement opportunities for students in various health and social environments in the Valley.

As planning is still under way at UC Merced, details such as the model for medical education, opening date, location of clinical training facilities and other aspects have yet to be determined and approved.

It is envisioned that the new program will train doctors who will stay to care for Valley residents and will engage in research that focuses on global health and public health issues pertinent to our region.

Additionally, UC Merced will continue to work in concert with our academic partners at UC Davis and UCSF Fresno, our potential clinical partners, and the UC Office of the President to develop a plan that will address the needs of the campus and the region.

Establishing a new UC medical school is a long-term endeavor that requires considerable support — expressed and financial

The approvals of campus and systemwide faculty, the UC Office of the President, UC Board of Regents, and funding from the California Legislature all are necessary. Prior consultation with and official approval from accrediting agencies are mandatory.

The California’s financial situation makes the timetable for a fully accredited, completely independent medical school difficult to predict, still campus and University of California leadership are committed to making the medical school a reality.

The opening of a future UC Merced School of Medicine will be tied to the availability of resources, the further development of core academic programs and the continued development of health sciences research and medical education on campus.

A refined timetable for the development of these programs will emerge as planning continues, and as options are considered along with the availability of funding.

Building a high-quality medical school as expeditiously as resources will allow is a goal shared by all involved.

UC Merced intends to build upon a blank slate to create a medical school that will uphold the quality of the University of California, be a leader in introducing path breaking innovations in medical education and research, and address the current and emerging health needs of the Valley and more broadly.

Meyers is executive director of Medical Education and Academic Planning at UC Merced. He is a physician, researcher and medical educator. He also serves as a professor and chairman of the Department of Internal Medicine at the UC Davis School of Medicine.