UC Merced Medical School Planners Kick off Listening Tour

July 6, 2009 7:01:56 PM PDT
A Valley coalition working to create a medical school at UC Merced is moving ahead with their plans and they're asking for your input. They say now is the time to act because a shortage of primary care physicians and specialists is only going to get worse in the next few years.Dr. Kanwar Mahal has been practicing medicine in Fresno for about four years and he's constantly dealing with the effects of the Valley's doctor shortage. "The issue is specialists in the Valley here. There are some specialists that we have to wait for 3 to 6 months and that can be an issue for some patients," said Dr. Mahal.

The Valley Coalition for UC Merced Medical School says the Valley has 51 percent fewer specialists and 31 percent fewer primary care physicians as the state as a whole. They're predicting a shortage of up to 17,000 physicians by 2015. Members of the coalition joined together Monday to kick off a community listening tour. They'll be traveling throughout the central Valley updating residents on their progress, and asking for input. "Initially the board of regents wanted to us to be content with a 2020 deadline. That's not taking care of healthcare in our Valley. We've moved with this effort and this coalition, and we're hoping that 2011, 2012 we'll have a medical school up and running here in the Valley," said Congressman Jim Costa.

Coalition members are hopeful UC Merced's medical school will help the Valley grow its own physicians, meaning many of the students who train here will stay in the Valley. "We have a shortage of diverse physicians. We need physicians who represent the cultural face of the Valley," said Dr. Joan Voris, an associate dean with the UCSF Fresno Medical Program.

That's something Dr. Mahal can relate to as a Valley native. "It would be great to see that, because you understand your community. If you're from that community, you want to give back to your community," said Dr. Mahal. The Valley Coalition for UC Merced Medical School will kick off their community listening tour Tuesday at Fresno State. It will be held at the Satellite Student Union beginning at 6 p.m. They hope to visit a total of 9 Valley counties by the end of the summer.

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