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UC Offers New Support for Community College Students Who Want to Become Doctors

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Under a new program, 138 California community college students will receive tailored academic support on their path to a UC medical school.(GV Wire File)
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UCSF Fresno News

The California Medicine Scholars Program (CMSP) this month is welcoming its first class of 138 California community college students, a group of scholars from across the state who will receive tailored academic support on their path to medical school.

The inaugural class is part of a new state-funded effort to diversify the primary care physician workforce and respond to looming health workforce shortages. CMSP is a key part of the state’s strategy to close a projected shortfall of more than 4,000 primary care physicians by 2030, and address widening disparities in access to care in rural and underserved communities.

The students, called California Medicine Scholars, will be provided a range of advising, internship, and volunteer health care experiences through four Regional Hubs of Healthcare Opportunity based on the campuses of University of California medical schools including UC Davis, UC Riverside, UC San Diego, and UCSF School of Medicine’s regional campus in Fresno (UCSF Fresno). The scholars will also receive support such as mentoring and networking opportunities with medical professionals and medical school students. The program is expected to grow to 200 students by the spring of 2023.

UCSF Fresno is the lead for the San Joaquin Valley’s Regional Hub of Healthcare Opportunity and is currently accepting applications for the Pre-Transfer Scholars Cohort. The application filing period closes at 10 p.m. May 13.

Community college students who plan to be enrolled at least part-time during fall 2023 and spring 2024 semesters are eligible to apply. Applications are available here.

An informational session for interested students will be held on Friday from 4 to 5 p.m. Register at: http://tiny.ucsf.edu/PreTransferInfo2023

Providing New Opportunities

“With California facing widening disparities in health care access in rural and medically underserved communities, we are proud to launch this vital new program to identify and support students from underrepresented groups throughout their journey to medical school,” said Rowena Robles, executive director of the California Medicine Scholars Program. “Education and medical professionals, community representatives, and stakeholders and supporters in workforce development, health care workforce, and equity in education have worked diligently over the last year to recruit our first cohort of students. Starting this spring, this program will begin providing these new scholars with opportunities they might never have had to put themselves on the path to medical school — and, ultimately, to work as physicians in California.”

Today, almost 45% of Californians have insufficient access to a primary care physician, and only 17% of medical students come from underrepresented groups. According to a survey released in February by the California Health Care Foundation and NORC at the University of Chicago, the majority of Californians (85%) say that “making sure there are enough doctors, nurses, and other health care providers across California” should be an important priority for the state government to address.

In addition, 42% of Black and Latino/x Californians say their community lacks adequate numbers of primary care providers — along with 53% of San Joaquin Valley residents and 48% of people living in the Inland Empire

One important way to help close these gaps is by expanding the number of physicians from backgrounds underrepresented in medicine, who are more likely to practice in rural and low-income areas where physician shortages are most acute. The California Community Colleges — with nearly 2 million students, 69% of whom are from diverse ethnic backgrounds — is uniquely positioned to improve diversity in the health workforce.

Thus, CMSP’s four Regional Hubs of Healthcare Opportunity include community colleges, along with universities, medical schools, community health clinics and community-based organizations that collaborate to provide greater pre-med opportunities for students. These hubs are led by the following UC medical schools, which provide a bridge between institutions as students advance through the program:

  • Greater Northern California: Avenue M led by UC Davis School of Medicine
  • Inland Empire: UC Riverside School of Medicine
  • San Diego: Region X led by UC San Diego School of Medicine
  • San Joaquin Valley: UCSF School of Medicine Fresno Regional Campus

The 2021-22 state budget provided $10.5 million for the first three years of the program, administered by the California Department of Health Care Access and Information. The Foundation for California Community Colleges serves as its Central Office. The California Endowment, California Wellness Foundation, and The California Health Care Foundation are also funders.

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