Efforts To Develop Med School at UC-Merced Encounter Hurdles
UC Merced officials are pushing a "new, less expensive model of education geared for rural medicine and research" as they work to develop a new medical school at the campus, the Merced Sun-Star reports.
Supporters of the plan argue that a new medical school at UC-Merced would improve access to health care services in the San Joaquin Valley by boosting the number of physicians in the area.
The San Joaquin Valley has fewer physicians per capita than any other region in California.
Statistics from the Central Valley Health Policy Institute at California State University indicate that the valley has 173 physicians per 100,000 people, far less than the San Francisco Bay Area and Southern California (Schoch/Gaines, Merced Sun-Star, 12/3).
Health Care Challenges
The valley is plagued by high poverty rates and high incidences of chronic diseases, according to the Sun-Star.
Advocates say that one in five children has been diagnosed with asthma and that many cases have not been diagnosed.
Residents' health problems are compounded by limited access to specialist care.Â In some cases, residents of rural areas must travel as much as 90 minutes for specialist treatment
Maria Pallavicini, vice provost for health sciences at UC-Merced, argues that a medical school at the campus would help develop strategies to address transportation and socio-economic challenges facing San Joaquin Valley residents (Gaines/Schoch, Merced Sun-Star, 12/5).
Roadblocks to Medical School
The state budget deficit and wider economic downturn stand as major obstacles to the proposed medical school, prompting officials to delay the planned opening of the school from 2013 to an undetermined date (Merced Sun-Star, 12/3).
According to the Sun-Star, "a battle looms in the coming weeks" over the proposed medical school.Â The state's budget deficit could spark fierce competition for funding among UC campuses and other interest groups.
Given the state's budget deficit, supporters of the UC-Merced medical school plan have offered alternative proposals, including:
- Focusing the UC-Merced medical school campus on physician-training, rather than medical research;
- Locating medical studies at UC-San Francisco's Fresno campus; and
- Expanding other UC medical schools' residency training programs in the San Joaquin Valley (Schoch/Gaines, Merced Sun-Star, 12/6).
In conjunction with the Center for California Health Care Journalism, the Sun-Star produced a series of articles, audio slide shows and other resources on the proposed UC-Merced Medical School.The Center for California Health Care Journalism is funded by the California HealthCare Foundation, which publishes California Healthline. This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.