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UC Merced Breaks Ground on $300M Medical Ed Building: ‘It Was Very Much a Dream’
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By The Merced Focus
Published 2 weeks ago on
May 15, 2024

Left to right: UC Merced Trustee Monya Lane, Assemblymember Esmeralda Soria, UC President Michael V. Drake, UC Merced Chancellor Juan Sanchez Munoz, and Board of Regents Chair Rich Leib participate in a groundbreaking for the UC Merced medical education building. (Victor A. Patton/CVJC)

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The gold shovels hit the soil Tuesday on a new $300 million medical education building that’s expected to train the next generation of doctors in the San Joaquin Valley.

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Victor A. Patton

The Merced FOCUS

Tuesday’s event attracted a variety of luminaries — from local legislators to community members who supported the idea of a University of California campus in the Valley decades ago.

The new building is being constructed on the eastern edge of the campus, behind the Arts and Computational Sciences Building.

UC Merced Chancellor Juan Sanchez Munoz said a medical education building had long been part of the plan for UC Merced since before it opened in 2005.

“It was very much a dream, but one far too long deferred,” Munoz said.

University of California President Michael V. Drake remembered being on a planning committee for the UC Merced campus 25 years ago, when the area he stood was just a field.

“The journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step,” Drake said, referencing a Chinese proverb.

“And we know there are the people here who were those original walkers, those people that took the step, people who had the vision that there was a place to go and took those steps, took those leaps of faith, those leaps of support.”

The Path to Becoming a Doctor Starts Here

Students who frequent the building will be enrolled in a program called SJV PRIME PLUS in partnership with UCSF and UCSF-Fresno (“PRIME” means “Programs In Medical Education).

The goal of the program is to put medical students on an eight-year academic trajectory.

Those who successfully navigate the pathway will earn a four-year bachelor’s degree, complete 1.5 years of pre-medical clinical training and 2.5 years of clinical training that results in a doctor of medicine degree from UCSF School of Medicine.

The program is aimed at recruiting applicants from the San Joaquin Valley region — people who have been raised here or attended two years of high school in the Valley. The university is also looking for applicants who demonstrate a commitment to the local community.

The campus welcomed its first cohort for the program last fall.

Addressing the Valley’s Healthcare Needs

Assemblywoman Esmeralda Soria, D-Merced, said one of the biggest predictors of where a medical student will practice is where they complete their training and where they were raised.

She said the goal is to also train a “diverse, multiculturally-competent workforce” that reflects the demographics of the Central Valley and the state.

Soria referenced the significant impact the closure of Madera Community Hospital as evidence of the dire healthcare needs that exist in the Valley.

“Today really marks the beginning of a better, brighter and healthier tomorrow for all the residents of the Central Valley,” Soria said. “We deserve to have these types of investments come to our community.”

The new building will also house UC Merced’s departments of psychology and public health, the Health Sciences Research Institute, and a range of general assignment learning environments.

Slated for completion in 2026, the building will be four stories tall and 203,500 square feet. It will also include instructional and academic offices, plus research space.

A small, peaceful pro-Palestine protest happening nearby on campus had no impact on Tuesday’s groundbreaking.

About the Author

Victor Patton is editor-in-chief of The Merced FOCUS, a nonprofit newsroom covering the San Joaquin Valley.

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