California’s first new medical school in 40 years
“Access to healthcare is a fundamental right.”
- Senator Richard D. Roth
For years, Xochitl Garcia was confined to her bed for days at a time, the result of debilitating migraines for which she had no treatment. She was unable to spend time with her children; unable to live the life we all want and hope for.
It wasn’t that Xochitl’s condition was untreatable. She simply did not have access to the treatment she desperately needed to ensure a normal, quality life.
That changed in 2013 when Xochitl visited the student-run health clinic at the University of California, Riverside. There she received free treatment and today she is virtually migraine-free, able to spend time with her family, free from fear or anxiety.
Unfortunately, Xochitl’s story is not unique. In Inland Southern California, access to care is one of the most critical issues affecting individuals and families. The numbers themselves paint a grim picture: while the federal government recommends a doctor-to-patient ratio of 1:2000, in Riverside County the doctor-to-patient ratio is far worse, with some estimating the ratio at 1:9000 - even worse than some third-world countries like Libya. In fact, the doctor shortage is so bad that physicians are flown into Riverside County to provide temporary service and relief.
What’s worse, it’s been reported that 20% of residents just east of Riverside have not seen a physician in over a year, likely because they cannot find one.
Today, Inland Southern California only has half the doctors it needs to meet current patient levels. In ten years, as the population increases and doctors in the existing workforce retire, Inland Southern California will only have 33% of the doctors it needs, and as the Affordable Care Act is fully implemented and nearly half a million people become newly insured, our region will only have 25% of the doctors it needs.
This is a crisis of epidemic proportions that is only poised to get worse if we do not act, one which requires a long term, sustainable solution.
That’s why on my first day in office I introduced Senate Bill 21 to fully fund the UC Riverside School of Medicine. Teaching and training physicians to work in underserved regions is the first step in meeting this dire challenge, and funding the UC Riverside School of Medicine was a critical aspect of that endeavor.
The local community and the University of California had worked for years to successfully gather monies to provide their fair share of funding for the Medical School, but the State had refused to allocate the remaining annual $15 million. This despite the fact that the Medical School had already been constructed and had already admitted its freshman class; without the ongoing funding, the Medical School would lose its accreditation and would be forced to close its doors. The Medical School’s future and the future of healthcare delivery in Inland Southern California hinged on receiving ongoing and sustainable funding from the State.
The challenge was certainly formidable: could we secure an ongoing annual allocation of $15 million from the State so the Medical School would have the opportunity to produce the quality physicians ready to serve the communities that needed them the most?
The UC Riverside School of Medicine is now a fully-funded reality. And because it’s been found that physicians are more likely to serve the communities in which they train, UC Riverside School of Medicine students will train in Inland Southern California’s community care clinics - in the very communities where we need them to serve.
I am tremendously proud that because of our efforts, Inland Southern California is home to the State’s first new medical school in 40 years. The UC Riverside School of Medicine was just the first step in addressing the long-term healthcare needs of our region and state and I look forward to continuing to work to make sure families throughout California have access to the healthcare they need and deserve.
- Richard D. Roth