Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation Thursday establishing the San Joaquin Valley Regional Medical Education Endowment Fund.

The bill’s author, Assemblyman Adam Gray (D-Merced), said in a Facebook post that the fund will provide “a dedicated opportunity for the collection of public and private donations to support the construction and operation of a medical school in the San Joaquin Valley.”

Portrait of Adam Gray

“I am committed to seeing this project through to the end. We need students from here and trained here so they will choose to practice medicine here.” — Assemblyman Adam Gray of Merced

Legislation Doesn’t Fund a Medical School

The bill, however, does not require the Legislature to fund a medical school in the San Joaquin Valley.

The final paragraph of the new law states:

“Nothing in this article shall require the University of California to take any action towards developing a branch campus of the University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine in the San Joaquin Valley region unless the endowment fund has a balance of five hundred million dollars ($500,000,000) and the Controller, after consultation with the University of California, has determined that the funds to be allocated are sufficient to support annual operating expenses for a San Joaquin Valley branch campus of the University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine supporting 50 students per class.”

Said Gray said in a news release: “The promise of a medical school in the Valley has been just talk and no action for too long. I am committed to seeing this project through to the end. We need students from here and trained here so they will choose to practice medicine here.”

Branch Campus of UCSF Medical School in Fresno

The construction of a publicly owned medical school in the Valley has been championed by politicians and healthcare advocates since the early 1960s.

Finally, this summer, The Fresno Bee reported that a branch campus of the UCSF School of Medicine would train medical students and retain them as doctors in the medically underserved Valley.

“UCSF students enrolled in the San Joaquin Valley Program in Medical Education will spend 18 months at the University of California at San Francisco medical campus and then move to Fresno for the remaining years of their training,” The Bee’s Barbara Anderson wrote.

“The training program, known as SJV PRIME, has been based at UC Davis School of Medicine but UCSF received approval recently to take it over. The transfer opened the door for UCSF to establish a branch medical school campus in Fresno.”

UCSF said that up to six students will be accepted in the fall of 2019, with the goal of achieving an incoming SJV PRIME class of 12 students.

The campus is distinct from, but operates under, the accreditation of the UCSF School of Medicine.

“The two best predictors of where physicians will practice are where they complete residency training and where they grew up,” said Dr. Michael W. Peterson, associate dean at UCSF Fresno. “About 50 percent of physicians who graduate from UCSF Fresno residency and fellowship programs already remain in the Valley to provide care, and we are optimistic that the percentage will increase with the opportunity for more medical students to train locally.”

UC Backed Final Version of Bill

Gray noted that despite expressing concerns with an earlier version of his bill, the University of California supported the final version.

“Everyone is rowing in the same direction,” Gray said. “With the support of UC President Napolitano and Valley leaders from north to south, we have made significant progress this year. Now with a fund in place, it is time to put our money where our mouth is.”

 

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