California Governor Signs Budget that Brings UC Riverside School of Medicine Long-sought State Funding

State Legislature directs UC system to allocate $15 million annually to medical school from its budget

On July 14, School of Medicine Dean G. Richard Olds presented honorary physicians’ white coats to Sen. Richard Roth  and Assemblymember Jose Medina, each of whom introduced legislation to provide $15 million annually in state funding for the school. PHOTO BY CARRIE ROSEMA

On July 14, School of Medicine Dean G. Richard Olds presented honorary physicians’ white coats to Sen. Richard Roth and Assemblymember Jose Medina, each of whom introduced legislation to provide $15 million annually in state funding for the school. PHOTO BY CARRIE ROSEMA

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (www.ucr.edu) — A budget compromise worked out and signed today by Gov. Jerry Brown means that UC Riverside’s School of Medicine will receive full and continuous funding of $15 million per year — long-sought assistance that enables the school to flourish and greatly facilitates its ongoing accreditation.

The $15 million for the UCR medical school was included in the 2013-14 state budget and budget trailer bills adopted by the California State Legislature on June 14 and 15. The budget provides for an increase in the University of California (UC) base budget of $125.1 million for the new fiscal year, along with approval for UC to restructure its bond debt, generating an estimated $80 million annually for the next decade. Funding for the UCR medical school will now be part of UC’s base budget annually going forward.

The agreement triggered celebration on campus and in the surrounding community.

“The creation and development of the medical school has been the vision of many at UC Riverside and in our community for many years,” said UC Riverside Interim Chancellor Jane Close Conoley.  “Today we reached a milestone for the health of our region and the future of UCR.”

She said the leadership of Senator Richard D. Roth (D-Riverside) and Assemblymember Jose Medina (D-Riverside) was critical to funding the UC Riverside School of Medicine.  Both campaigned on getting on-going funding for the medical school, and after election both immediately introduced legislation to that effect.

Roth called the $15 million of ongoing state money in this year’s state budget a victory for the medical school, the health of the people of Inland Southern California, as well as the regional economy. “This victory will benefit all of us today and our families for generations to come,” he said.

Medina said the Legislature took a major step forward to meet the area’s need for doctors and healthcare providers.  “The UC Riverside Medical School will also advance the economic competitiveness of the region, bringing much needed jobs within the health related fields,” he said.

“Without their leadership, without their efforts elevating this as a budget priority, it would not have been successful,” said Patrick Lenz, the UC’s vice president for budget, and one of the chief architects of the agreement.

The School of Medicine will enroll an inaugural class of 50 students this August, and is the first medical school to be developed in California in more than 40 years.

Establishment of the UCR School of Medicine was approved by the UC Board of Regents in July 2008. G. Richard Olds, the school’s founding dean and the vice chancellor for health affairs, was appointed in February 2010, and the school received preliminary accreditation from the Liaison Committee on Medical Education in October 2012. Two UCR buildings are completed — the new School of Medicine Research Building and the renovated School of Medicine Education Building — and faculty and staff have been preparing for several years for the official opening on Friday, Aug. 9.

“We would not have reached this point without Assemblymember Medina and Senator Roth’s tireless efforts to champion our new medical school and secure in the Legislature’s budget full and continuous funding,” Olds said.  “We can now start addressing one of the most severe shortages of primary care physicians in the nation.”

som research building

The UC Riverside School of Medicine Research Building. Photo by Peter Phun

The mission of the school is to expand and diversify the physician workforce in Inland Southern California and to develop research and health care delivery programs that improve the health of medically underserved populations.

According to the California HealthCare Foundation, the Inland Empire has 40 primary care physicians per 100,000 people, far fewer than the 60 to 80 considered sufficient.  The demand for new doctors and healthcare providers will increase as California implements the Affordable Care Act and an estimated several hundred thousand of Inland Southern California residents become eligible for healthcare coverage.

The foundation of the UCR School of Medicine is the UCR/UCLA Thomas Haider Program in Biomedical Sciences, which for more than 30 years has partnered with the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA to train physicians. Students enrolled in the current program complete their first two years of medical school at UCR before transferring to the UCLA medical school to complete their final two years and receive their M.D. degrees.

UCR will now offer all four years of medical education as an independent medical school and, through the newly named Thomas Haider Program at the UCR School of Medicine, will reserve up to 24 of the available medical school slots to students who attend UCR for at least six consecutive quarters and complete their bachelor’s degree at UCR.

The medical school also operates a Ph.D. program in biomedical sciences, a long-standing graduate degree program at UCR. The school will also develop a range of residency training programs, the post-M.D. education required for doctors to become board certified in their specialties.

Dean Olds chose the setting of the Riverside chamber’s monthly “Good Morning Riverside” event, held on July 14 and attended by more than 250, to present honorary physicians’ white coats to Roth and Medina.

He also thanked the membership of the Greater Riverside Chambers of Commerce for its continuing support of the school. “When things didn’t go well, it would have been easy for the community to give up. … With each roadblock, the community and the chamber doubled down [in backing the School of Medicine],” Olds said.

Roth described the years-long effort to open and fund the medical school as a relay race involving several former UCR chancellors, medical school leaders and Interim Chancellor Conoley. “Jane Conoley carried the baton across the finish line,” he said. In describing Olds’ role, he said the dean was “the right guy at the right time in the right community for the right medical school.”

Medina called it a proud moment for the community. “We have shown the state of California what a community can do when it comes together for a cause,” he said.

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