A bill designed to increase the number of doctors in underserved areas such as the Valley has a few more steps to go before reaching Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk to be signed into law. But funding for the California Medicine Scholars Program is already guaranteed.
Assembly Bill 128, the budget bill signed on June. 28 by Newsom, includes $9,975,000 to establish a regional pipeline system for community college students who want to go to medical school.
The goal is to increase the number of primary care physicians statewide and in underserved communities where a lack of access to physicians affects health outcomes.
The legislation creating the California Medicine Scholars Program is still in its own pipeline, however.
Senate Bill 40, authored by Sen. Melissa Hurtado, D-Sanger, was approved by the Assembly Health Committee on Tuesday and moves next to the Assembly Appropriations Committee. Once approved by Appropriations, it goes to the full Assembly and then back to the Senate for concurrence, Michelle Sherwood, Hurtado’s spokeswoman, said Thursday.
SB 40 would create a pathway between California community colleges and medical school, with scholarships, internships, and research opportunities coordinated through four Regional Hubs of Health Care Opportunity, of which one would be in the Central Valley.
Through the California Medicine Scholars Program’s five-year pilot, at least 50 students would be selected initially in each of the four regional hubs starting in 2023.
Not Enough Doctors
The lack of doctors in general, and of doctors reflecting communities of color, means that Latinos, African Americans, and other people of color are less likely to receive culturally competent health care. During the COVID-19 pandemic, for example, Latinos — who are 39% of the state’s population — made up nearly 60% of the state’s coronavirus cases and 49% of deaths, while African Americans, with 6% of the state’s population, made up 7% of the deaths.
Many people of color have been discouraged from pursuing a medical degree because of the high costs that typically leave medical students under a mountain of debt.
In addition, the lack of medical programs in the Valley historically has limited educational opportunities for students here, although that has changed in recent years with the addition of the UCSF PRIME program, the partnership of UCSF and UC Merced, and the new College of Osteopathic Medicine in the California Health Sciences University in Clovis.
(GV Wire Publisher Darius Assemi serves on CHSU’s Board of Trustees.)