Inland Empire News

UC Riverside Medical School gets preliminary accreditation; to begin enrolling future doctors next summer

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

After years of hard work, and last-minute fundraising, the University of California, Riverside's School of Medicine can finally open its doors.

On Tuesday, the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME) -- the national accrediting body for programs geared to M.D. degrees in North America -- gave preliminary approval to UCR's proposed courses.

"There certainly was a lot of cheering and a lot hugging by the way," said Dr. G. Richard Olds, UCR vice chancellor for health affairs and the dean of the School of Medicine.

Until now, the only way for medical students at UCR to become doctors was to spend two years at the university and then finish up at an accredited medical school, like UCLA.

"I'm just as excited as everyone else," said medical student Michael Castillo. "We've been waiting for this for a long time, and it's finally happening."

LCME's decision paves the way for the university to begin accepting applications for its charter enrollment of 50 students in the fall of 2013. UCR students are excited about the possibility of actually getting their medical doctorates without having to transfer.

"I'm actually from Riverside. I was born in Riverside. So I was hoping that the school got its accreditation and I'm glad it did," said medical student Janel Gracia.

Efforts toward establishing a medical school have been ongoing since 2006.

In 2011, the LCME withheld accreditation approval when it became clear the state would not be making annual funding available to UCR because of California's gaping budget deficit.

However, over the last year, the university has secured tens of millions of dollars in private donations, government grants -- including $20 million from Riverside County -- and UC system appropriations, enabling it to move ahead with opening its doors next fall.

UCR's new medical school won't only be a benefit to the students, but to the local community that they'll end up serving.

"Statistically, about three-fourths of them will stay and practice in Southern California," said Olds. "Now the impact that that has on our community is huge."

The school's vice-chancellor says many medical school students end up staying in the community where they graduated.

The ratio of residents to health care workers is 29 to one across California. However, in the Inland Empire it's 40 to one.

"There's a tremendous shortage of physicians here, and we need to address that," said medical student Jorge Garcia. "This medical school will definitely do a service to fixing that problem."

The school will be the sixth in the UC system, which hasn't inaugurated a new campus M.D. program since the 1960s. Prospective students can begin submitting applications for acceptance to the four-year program later this month when the medical school is added to the American Medical College Application Service.

City News Service contributed to this report.

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community activity, education, school, riverside county, inland empire news, rob mcmillan
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