UC-Riverside Medical School Bill Approved

by David Gorn

The Assembly yesterday approved a measure to urge UC-Riverside School of Medicine officials to use some portion of its $15 million in recently-appropriated state money to encourage graduates of the state's newest medical school to enter physician-retention programs, which are designed to boost the number of physicians practicing in California's underserved areas.

The $15 million to be used by UC-Riverside for the expansion and operations of its medical school was originally included in SB 21 by Sen. Richard Roth (D-Riverside), but because of a budget deal, that appropriation instead came out of this year's budget bill.

The Assembly vote yesterday reaffirms the Legislature's commitment to UC-Riverside School of Medicine's expansion, and to urging graduates of that school to help ease the state's dearth of physicians in rural and urban underserved areas.

"Last week it was my honor to be at UC-Riverside to welcome the first 50 medical students in the program at UCR," said Assembly member Jose Medina (D-Riverside), who presented SB 21 to the Assembly floor yesterday.

Classes for medical students at UC-Riverside started Aug. 5. The school admitted 50 new medical students. School officials have said the $15 million in operating funds from the state will enable it to expand capacity to about 80 students, starting in two years.

The budget deal in June took away the $15 million thunder from SB 21, so the bill was modified to focus on one possible state benefit -- getting med school graduates to practice locally, in underserved areas.

"SB 21 directs the UCR School of Medicine to develop a program to identify existing medical students [who might want to practice in underserved areas] and help them apply for the physician retention program," Medina said.

Riverside County is the only county in California with a million or more residents and fewer than 100 physicians per 100,000 people, according to bill analysis. The demand for new physicians is expected to increase with the health care reform changes in 2014.

The bill passed the Assembly floor on a 76-0 vote. It has to return to the Senate for concurrence before it goes to the governor's desk.


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