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A Medical School for UC Riverside?

Chancellor says its plan would aid the medically underserved using existing hospitals.

November 11, 2005|Rebecca Trounson | Times Staff Writer

UC Riverside, which has long wanted to open medical and law schools, announced Thursday that it would soon submit a proposal for a medical school that would not require construction of a hospital.

Chancellor France A. Cordova, who announced the plan to a group of community and political leaders, proposed that a new medical school collaborate instead with existing hospitals in the San Bernardino and Riverside counties region, significantly reducing the plan's cost.

Cordova said the main impetus for the proposal, which would be formally submitted to a University of California special committee in March, was a recent study projecting a statewide shortage of physicians in the next decade, but particularly in the fast-growing Inland Empire region. Already, she said, the area is considered to have one of the state's lowest ratios of primary-care physicians and specialists per capita.

"Clearly, the main driver is to serve the medically underserved," Cordova said in an interview.

"But this is also about the whole economy of the Inland Empire. We want and need to help the region develop the high-tech industry that has grown up elsewhere surrounding research universities," she said.

UC Riverside, which has about 17,000 undergraduate and graduate students, already has a program that allows medical students to complete the first two years of their program on the campus, then transfer to UCLA for the final two years. They receive their medical degrees from UCLA.

For many years, the campus has wanted to increase its professional and graduate school offerings -- and its prestige -- but has had its hopes dashed. Now, officials say, the timing and conditions for a medical school may finally be in the university's favor as it continues to hope for a law school.

The recent study of the state's healthcare needs, presented to UC regents in the spring, recommended that the UC system, which has five medical schools, consider opening at least one more. The report also urged UC to increase enrollment in existing programs.

UC Riverside's proposal will include plans for a medical school and a health sciences research institute. Campus spokeswoman Marcia McQuern said a detailed financial plan was not complete but said it would include public and private funding.

UC system spokeswoman Jennifer Ward said the Riverside medical school plan would be taken seriously but that the campus was not expected to be alone in making such a proposal. Other campuses also are likely to submit proposals in March to a special committee appointed by UC President Robert C. Dynes, Ward said. UC regents may take up the issue by the summer, she said.

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