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UC Riverside Medical School gets $25 million, can double size

Source: Ryan Hagen, The Sun

UC Riverside’s School of Medicine received $25 million in ongoing funding in the state budget signed this week, which school officials say will allow them to double the number of doctors they train, from 250 to 500.

The expansion will be gradual, reaching 125 students in each upcoming class by about 2025 as hiring and building takes off. That will allow the school to help address the Inland Empire’s doctor shortage, said Deborah Deas, the vice chancellor for health sciences and dean of the School of Medicine.

Riverside and San Bernardino County have 35 primary care physicians per 100,000 people, about half the recommended ratio of 60 to 80 primary care physicians per 100,000, according to the California Health Care Foundation.

Since many of UCR’S students plan to practice medicine in the region, the funding benefits patients as well, Deas said.

“The funding is tremendous to the school as well as the community because it really allows us to fulfill the mission of the School of Medicine,” Deas said Thursday, July 2. “That is to develop clinical and research programs to serve the underserved as well as train a diverse physician workforce that we hope will remain in the Inland Empire.”

Part of that hopeful future workforce is medical student Nikita Kadakia.

Kadakia, who’s from Corona, said she applied to UCR partly because it’s local, and she’s glad to see more people will now be able to do the same.

“I hope to stay close by so I can work with the population we have here, which is the more underserved population here,” Kadakia said by phone.

Kadakia plans to become a surgeon — “I’m not a poster child,” she said, acknowledging that surgery isn’t the area of highest need in the Inland Empire —  and said the school is doing a great job of preparing her.

“The school is very receptive to feedback and our deans are very receptive,” she said. “Even though we’re doubling in size, I’m confident that will continue.”

The $25 million makes a total of $40 million in state funding for the school, which opened in 2013 and which Deas said had received the same $15 million — not adjusted for inflation — since then.

The budget now commits to provide at least $40 million per year, with no end date.

The school’s largest building now fits 80 students, which is part of the reason the number of incoming students has grown only from 50 the first year to 77 in 2020. Plans are ready for a new, larger building that should be complete by 2023, Deas said.

The funding will also allow the school to hire more full-time faculty and staff and purchase additional state-of-the-art equipment for classrooms and the simulation center.

Senator Richard Roth, Assemblyman Jose Medina and Assemblywoman Sabrina Cervantes, all Democrats based in Riverside, sponsored the increased funding.

“The critical shortage of primary care physicians has long affected our region, and these healthcare disparities have only become clearer and concerning during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Roth said in a written statement. “While the need for a medical school in inland Southern California was ultimately what motivated me to run for office in 2012, the fight did not begin then, nor with me. I share this victory with countless community advocates in our region who have worked for decades to make this dream a reality.”