Newsom Announces His Support of UC Merced Medical School

Source: Bill McEwen, News Director, GV Wire

Gov. Gavin Newsom is backing the effort to build a medical school at UC Merced.

In a news conference at UC Merced on Monday, the governor expressed his support for the project, which has been on the minds of Valley leaders and residents since the university’s 2005 opening. Well before that, Fresno leaders began lobbying for a state-funded Valley medical school in the early 1960s.

The first proposed piece of the complicated medical school puzzle is the proposed Health, Behavioral Sciences and Medical Education Building. The estimated price tag: $210 million.

Appearing with Newsom were longtime medical school advocates Rep. Jim Costa (D-Fresno) and Assemblyman Adam Gray (D-Merced), as well as state Sen. Ana Caballero (D-Salinas), who has championed better healthcare access for underserved communities.

Partnership with UCSF Fresno

Costa and Gray explained that the UC Merced medical program will team up with UCSF’s regional hospital and clinical program in Fresno. With this model, Gray said, the costs to launch and expand the medical school can be significantly reduced.

“Establishing a medical school at UC Merced has been a dream for more than 20 years,” Gray said. “Today that dream becomes a reality as we establish a branch campus of the best medical school in the country right here in the San Joaquin Valley.

“The medical school will truly transform the health care landscape in one of the most underserved regions of California. This is by far my proudest accomplishment. I am extremely grateful to Governor Newsom for making Valley health care a priority.”

Valley Desperate for Medical School, More Physicians

The Central Valley experiences some of the worst health outcomes in the state while having fewer doctors in the community than other regions.

There are 157 medical doctors for every 100,000 residents in the Central Valley, compared with 411 per 100,000 in the Bay Area. Statewide, there are 157 primary care physicians per 100,000 residents. In the Central Valley, there are fewer than 45 primary care doctors per 100,000, the governor’s office said.

“The Central Valley community has been living with unfair health outcomes for too long,” said Newsom. “Zip codes shouldn’t be a pre-existing condition. UC Merced’s Medical School will be the first of its kind for the community, providing local students with opportunities to both learn closer to home and serve the communities they grew up in, while also working to confront the most persistent health challenges facing the Central Valley head-on.”

Funding the Medical School

Plans call for the building to serve about 2,200 undergraduates by 2030.

Funding of $15 million annually to support medical education was awarded by the Legislature last year.

In addition, UC Merced has received $7.8 million in AB 94 funding and the university has earmarked $4.2 million in campus funds for design and CEQA studies. And, Reps. Costa and Josh Harder (D-Turlock) have written a federal bill that designates $15 million for the medical program.

Private Medical School in Clovis

The Valley’s first medical school, California Health Sciences University, is in Clovis. The privately funded university hosts a College of Pharmacy and College of Osteopathic Medicine.

The Assemi family of Fresno founded CHSU in 2012. GV Wire publisher Darius Assemi is a member of the university’s board of trustees.