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Garamendi: Plans changing for UC Merced medical school

In the middle of looming state budget cuts to higher education, Lt. Gov. John Garamendi has recast plans for a medical school at UC Merced.

His plan will be unveiled formally at a Fresno event Thursday night, but some details are being revealed.

Garamendi's new plan would enroll promising freshman students on a pre-med track immediately, use community college resources and eliminate summer vacations to fast track graduation. It would create a new cohort of doctors and nurses in the San Joaquin Valley, according to an interview with the lieutenant governor Tuesday afternoon.

Garamendi said the program could be up and running by fall 2010.

The new plan was crafted, in part, after President Mark G. Yudof said at a meeting of the California Postsecondary Education Commission that plans for the medical school were certainly delayed.

"A delay for the San Joaquin Valley is a problem -- certainly a problem for the university at Merced and certainly a problem for the men and women and children that live in the valley," Garamendi said. "It will be that much longer before doctors become available."

Garamendi said that concentrating on general medical education first would allow the school to get up and running, with the more-costly task of creating a research program coming later.

Nursing and medical students enrolled at a UC Merced medical school under Garamendi's plan would graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree in three years. Then students pursuing an MD degree would begin a two-year clinical rotation at clinics and hospitals throughout the San Joaquin Valley.

After that general medical education training, required students would begin their residency programs.

The entire process would shave about two to three years off of the traditional path to becoming a doctor, Garamendi said.

Garamendi is the father of John Garamendi Jr., vice chancellor for university relations at UC Merced.