BY MARK MUCKENFUSS
STAFF WRITER, PE.COM
Published: 09 June 2012
A bold new medical school curriculum is being mapped during the planning phases of the University of California at Riverside.
UCR officials had originally planned to open the school this fall, but a lack of state funding amid the budget crisis derailed the school’s attempt at accreditation last year. Since then Dean Thomas Olds has secured commitments of $100 million over 10 years, largely from UC sources, local government and community health organizations. He believes the sum is sufficient for accreditation.
The school is located in Riverside California in the Inland Empire region. The area which also includes one other private medical school serves a large population of underserved and Latino's. Many graduating medical students from the local private university leave the area, or become missionary evangelists.
To begin with, the region has only half the physicians it needs. The national average is 220 doctors for every 100,000 people. Here, the ratio is 110 to 100,000.
The shortage of primary care physicians is even more severe. Instead of the 80 per 100,000 that is the national average, the Inland area has 36 per 100,000. In some areas of the Coachella Valley, there are 10 primary care doctors for every 100,000 people.
Based on those numbers, the region needs 3,000 more doctors. By 2020, Olds estimates that shortage will be closer to 5,000.
Part of the solution, he said, is to recruit heavily from the local region, focusing on students who have shown a commitment to community service and shifting the training of the young doctors from an in-patient to an out-patient emphasis. He also wants to hire a staff with a high number of primary care physicians. In many medical schools, he said, up to 75 percent of the teaching doctors are specialists.
If the UC Riverside School of Medicine opens in fall 2013, it won’t look like other medical schools.
It will not have its own medical center — students will be farmed out to local hospitals — and the school’s dean, G. Richard Olds, says the way doctors will be trained is a 180-degree shift from the current medical school model.
Among those differences:
A focus on producing more primary care physicians — rather than specialists — who would establish practices in the Inland area.
Emphasizing illness prevention — instead of focusing on treating people who are already sick — by working in cooperation with local health agencies.
Using outpatient and community clinics for much of young doctors’ training instead of nearly exclusive use of a large hospital setting.
Today, only one in six new doctors is a general practitioner, Olds said. The other five are specialists. That imbalance has shifted the way medical care is provided, he said, focusing more on making sick people well, rather than keeping them from getting sick in the first place. He wants to reverse that.
Drawing support and funding from local government, healthcare networks and private entities, instead of relying mostly on monies from the state level.
“We’re probably the only medical school doing what we’re doing,” Olds said. “If enough of what we do works, in 20 to 30 years, everybody will be doing it.”
UCR officials had originally planned to open the school this fall, but a lack of state funding amid the budget crisis derailed the school’s attempt at accreditation last year. Since then, Olds has secured commitments of $100 million over 10 years, largely from UC sources, local government and community health organizations.