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University of California at Riverside Med School Stalled Over Funding

National Medical Committee Withholds Preliminary Accreditation for UC Riverside Medical School.

10:51 PM PDT on Wednesday, June 8, 2011

By LORA HINES, The Press-Enterprise

Preliminary accreditation for UC Riverside’s proposed medical school is on hold because the state has not budgeted ongoing money to fund it, university officials said Wednesday.

The decision by the national Liaison Committee on Medical Education to withhold the accreditation means the school opening, slated for summer 2012, could be delayed for a year, university officials said.

UCR Chancellor Timothy White said the accreditors believe that a state medical school needs to show it has a state funding commitment. The school has 30 days to appeal the decision.

No one at the Washington, D.C.-based committee could be reached Wednesday to comment on UCR medical school’s accreditation status. The committee’s 17 members include medical educators and administrators, practicing doctors, lay people and medical students.

The committee informed university officials Tuesday night of its decision, White said. Earlier that day, White and medical school dean Dr. G. Richard Olds announced at the Riverside County Board of Supervisors meeting that they anticipated getting preliminary accreditation.

“The decision at this point whether to go forward or not go forward resides with the state of California,” White said. “The lack of recurring commitment from the state is the basis alone not to provide preliminary accreditation.

“That was the deal breaker for (the committee),” White said.

No other school programs are threatened because of state budget concerns, he said.


University and county officials said they will boost efforts to get lawmakers to commit funds for the medical school.

The school is expected to cost $500 million. The university needs a $100 million upfront investment from the state and other public investment of $50 million by 2012, according to the university’s website.

So far the state has given the medical school $10 million, and the school has raised more than $30 million in private donations.

The UC Regents budget proposal includes $15 million for the school for the upcoming fiscal year.

But future state funding is in limbo as legislators are wrestling over a multibillion-dollar budget gap including shortfalls for higher education.

Inland lawmakers and members of the state Senate budget committee did not return calls or were unavailable for comment on Wednesday.

White said the school needs a commitment for permanent recurring state funding to get its accreditation. He said the medical school needs an estimated $15 million annually for the next couple of years as it gets started. But the funding amount will vary from year to year, White said.


Riverside County included $10 million in its budget this year to help the medical school open on time next year. On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors approved an agreement transferring the first $5 million.

County officials have long touted the medical school, not only as a way to reduce a physician shortage but as a boost to economic development. Supervisor Jeff Stone called the allocation of $5 million a “landmark moment in Riverside County.

“We deserve a medical school,” he said.

County Supervisor Bob Buster, whose office has given $100,000 to the medical school, called the committee’s accreditation decision “a stumble. It’s bad news. We really need the partnership of the state.”

Inland Rep. Joe Baca, D-Rialto, who has helped secure millions of dollars for the school, said late Wednesday that he would look into factors that led to the decision.

“For this area, the need for doctors and nurses is critical,” Baca said.

Baca said California officials might need to do more to support what would be a necessary source of medical professionals, especially in light of new demands created by the health care overhaul passed in the last Congress.

“The state should step up to the plate,” Baca said. “It’s an investment in the future based on the services that will be provided.”

Last year, Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., visited UCR, where she pledged that she, Baca and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., would seek $1 million in federal money to pay for a medical simulation laboratory for the med school. They did not succeed in getting the money.

Jim Specht, deputy chief of staff for Rep. Jerry Lewis, R-Redlands, said the congressman was concerned about the medical school’s accreditation delay and would try to help solve the problem.

Riverside Mayor Ron Loveridge said he’s hoping White’s planned visit to Sacramento today will have a positive outcome.

“If necessary there are all sorts of things we can do, from rallying the community to going to Sacramento, but I think this needs to be thought through carefully with the chancellor,” Loveridge said. “We’re ready to respond and to help.”


Olds said the accrediting decision does not affect the fully-accredited UCR/UCLA Thomas Haider Program in Biomedical Sciences. The program trains more than 50 first- and second-year medical students before they finish their degrees at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

Meanwhile, the school has moved forward with medical school programs, construction and remodeling to prepare for the opening, Olds said. The school’s first class is expected to enroll 50 students next summer.

“We’re in a very good position at this time,” he said. “We’re not going to sit around for a year. We’re going to continue to build programs.”

But accreditors want a state medical school to also prove that it has state support, White said.

“That’s the Achilles’ tendon that we have to solve,” he said. “A sizeable fraction has to come from the state of California.”

Olds said it’s imperative that the school open on time to get doctors trained and ready to meet the demands of the Inland area’s growing population. The area will be short 5,000 doctors in nine years — about the time it takes to get a doctor trained, he said.

“That’s what the compelling issue is,” Olds said. “We don’t have time to solve this problem.”

On Tuesday, county hospital CEO Doug Bagley said the county has anticipated a medical school at UC Riverside for years and has started expanding the hospital’s residency programs.

He said the hospital recently gained approval for a general surgery residency program that will begin next month and has submitted an application for an internal medicine program. Bagley said talks are ongoing to pursue a psychiatry residency program in partnership with the county Department of Mental Health.

He agreed that an accreditation delay of more than a year would affect the benefits the school would have on meeting health care needs in the Inland area and across the state.

“Bumps in the road are to be expected, and everyone knew California’s economic situation would be challenging,” Bagley said. “I don’t believe this will derail the ultimate outcome.”



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