Newsom budget includes $15 million for UC Merced, Valley medical education
BY ABBIE LAUTEN-SCRIVNER
JANUARY 18, 2020 06:00 AM
A building lighting ceremony was held to celebrate the completion of the first phase of the University of California, Merced 2020 Project on Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018.
The Central Valley’s physician deficiency may get a needed boost from the proposed 2020-21 California budget.
Gov. Gavin Newsom’s suggested budget offers $15 million in ongoing funding to expand medical education at UC San Francisco School of Medicine Fresno Branch Campus in collaboration with UC Merced.
“With the unwavering leadership of Assemblymember Adam Gray and his colleagues in our legislative delegation, UC Merced and UCSF Fresno have fierce advocates working with us to improve access to health care in our region,” said Cori Lucero, UC Merced’s executive director of governmental and community relations, in an emailed statement.
As part of the state’s general fund, the investments would improve access to healthcare in California’s most underserved regions, according to the Governor’s Budget Summary.
“The Central Valley continues to have some of the lowest numbers of doctors per capita in the state, and the need will only increase as existing physicians retire,” said Assemblymember Adam Gray, D-Merced, in a news release.
The proposal kicks off months of negotiations between Newsom’s office and the Legislature. UC Merced will work with Gray and Newsom as the budget process unfolds into spring, Lucero said.
The University of California is requesting $433 million in ongoing funding and $475 million in one-time funding for the 2020-21 budget, according to a budget request approved by UC regents in November. With Newsom’s proposed budget release, Lucero said there may be modifications.
A revised state budget will be released in May. Newsom and lawmakers have until June 15 to pass it ahead of the new fiscal year’s start on July 1.
“This investment will allow more students to train to become doctors right here in the Valley, and it will directly increase access to care in our community – one of my top priorities during my time in the Legislature,” Gray said in the release.
GRAY, UNIVERSITY LEADERS PUSH FOR UC MERCED MEDICAL SCHOOL
Gray currently has two pending bills in the Legislature related to Valley health. One seeks to extend clinic hours, while the other proposes building a medical school at UC Merced.
A UC Merced medical school has been contemplated for many years. The university was approved to start plans in 2008, but stalled.
Momentum may be building again. In October Gray convened the San Joaquin Valley Coalition for Medical Education in Modesto to discuss the possibility. Executives from UC Merced and UCSF Fresno, staff members of California Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris, as well as other politicians and medical community members met to hash out what the plan would realistically take.
Interim Chancellor Nathan Brostrom said in a December interview with the Sun-Star that medical education will be the university’s highest priority within the next decade.
“The long-term hope is that UC Merced would be able to take on those foundation courses that are currently being delivered by the UCSF main campus,” Lucero said.
Expansion of UCSF Fresno and UC Merced programs would cost between $20 million to $25 million. Local residency programs would need to be expanded to keep the growing number of graduates in the Valley.
UC Merced would also have to go through an accreditation process for the medical curriculum, in addition to hiring more staff, Lucero said. All is contingent upon availability of funding resources