Plans for UC medical school in the Valley get a boost

The effort to bring a University of California medical school to the Valley is gaining momentum.

The San Joaquin Valley Coalition for Medical Education met at UC Merced Thursday to continue planning for the program to address the need for more doctors in this region, which has some of the worst patient-to-physician ratios in the country.

Dr. David Canton from California Health Sciences University said, "Getting primary care and even getting specialists for people in the Valley has been an issue for a long time, and we're finally coming together with public and private partnerships to try to make something happen."

The group has previously met in other cities, but this is the first gathering since Governor Gavin Newsom released his proposed budget.

It includes $15 million in ongoing funding to establish a branch medical school campus that would use UC facilities in both Fresno and Merced.

The funding still needs to be approved by the state legislature, but Assemblymember Adam Gray said, "This is the biggest development in medical education for the San Joaquin Valley in the last 20 years."

The two campuses already collaborate on a small program known as "SJV PRIME" that helps recruit and train future physicians, but they're now looking to expand those efforts.

UC Merced recently hired Dr. Thelma Hurd to serve as Director of Medical Education as this initiative moves forward.

She said, "We have really looked at medical education as having three components, a graduate component, an undergrad component, and a secondary education pipeline component."

Officials say it may ultimately be possible for medical students to spend their first three semesters at the Merced campus before finishing their degree in Fresno.

They hope to attract local students who want to continue living in the Valley and caring for underserved communities.
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