FRESNO, California (KGPE) — For decades, lawmakers have tried to establish a four-year medical school in the Central Valley. The biggest obstacle, though, has always been getting the money to build it.
Valley congressmen recently introduced a bill to ease the burden. State leaders say this demonstrates the collaborative effort needed to bring the Valley up-to-par with the state in health care.
Enid Picart is in her fourth year at UCSF-Fresno. Her roots in the Central Valley run deep, so much so, she’s in the school’s SJV PRIME program. It recruits valley natives to help fill the area’s doctor gap.
“I knew about the program since I was at UC Merced. Since I’m from the Valley, the idea of getting my education from the Valley was very key for me,” said Picart.
But, as successful as the program is, the area still lags in doctors. For every 100,000 people in the San Joaquin Valley, there are 39 doctors, according to numbers from Rep. Jim Costa. The state’s average is 50 doctors.
To curb this, Costa — with fellow valley congressmen Rep. T.J. Cox and Rep. Josh Harder — introduced the Expanding Medical Education Act of 2020 last week on Capitol Hill. It would provide up to $10,000,000 per fiscal year to help create a medical school or branch campus for underserved areas.
Assemblymember Adam Gray of Merced said this legislation complements the state funds he’s helped establish — as well as the $15 million Gov. Gavin Newsom allocated for this effort in the latest budget.
He said this showcases how local, state and federal partners can work together.
“At a time when so much fo the news is engaged in everyone fighting and disagreeing, here in the San Joaquin Valley…we’re all working together,” Gray said.
As the efforts focus on creating a medical school or branch campus through the UC system, the Valley’s first four-year medical school is on-track to open this year.
California Health Sciences University’s (CHSU) College of Osteopathic Medicine will have a first-class of 75 students and they start this summer.
The school recruited heavily out-of-area for students and faculty, but most importantly, it provides those like Picart an option to stay in the valley to learn.
“For me, it was really, really important to practice and see patients in my various clerkships — from surgery to family medicine — here in the Central Valley,” Picart said.
The Fresno/Clovis Convention and Visitors Bureau said talk of a medical have already helped bring new eyes to the area. CEO Layla Forstedt said the area’s medical tourism has been increasing over the years, with new medical facilities opening up, like Clovis Community’s Cancer Institute.
Click here to see the Expanding Medical Education Act’s full text.