UC Davis School of Medicine will develop a new academic stream to train students interested in caring for the Native American population, thanks to increased state funding.
The $ 1.7 million allocation, included in the state budget signed by Governor Gavin Newsom in July, comes after years of advocacy by the University of California (UC), which has sought funds for ongoing and new medical education programs across multiple campuses.
The programs are part of a UC-wide initiative known as PRIME (Medical Education Programs), which aims to address the shortage of physicians in medically underserved areas and reduce disparities in health matters. In addition to funding to create the new Native American program, UC Davis will receive an additional $ 1.7 million to strengthen its Rural PRIME course, which trains students to address health issues in rural communities.
“This is a huge, huge victory for us,” said Mark Servis, professor of clinical psychiatry at UC Davis and associate dean of medical education at the School of Medicine. “This is an incredible development because we have been working to meet the needs of tribal communities for years, and it positions us as a national leader. We must also subsidize our PRIME programs, which adds the financial resources necessary to support these programs.
In total, the state budget provides nearly $ 13 million to enable seven UC schools to increase enrollment and launch new programs.
In addition to UC Davis, the funding will benefit UC San Diego, UC Riverside, UC Irvine, UCLA, UCSF and UC Berkeley.
PRIME was designed by the UC President’s office in 2004 to enable medical schools to offer training paths that include rotations to hospitals and clinics specific to a geographic area or primary care setting. .
Leaders at the School of Medicine said the new PRIME course would attract Native American students eager to become doctors and improve the health of Native Americans in California.
– Alicia González-Flores
UC Davis School of Medicine Community Health Researchers
Studies show that students and residents who are passionate about providing care in medically underserved areas are likely to end up working there as doctors.
Native Americans and Alaska Natives have long experienced more health complications than other races, including higher death rates from chronic liver disease and cirrhosis, unintentional injury and illness. chronic lower respiratory tract, according to Indian Health Services, a federal initiative.
Very few Native American students apply to medical schools in California, and UC Davis wants to help change that.
“The mission of our medical education is to address the shortage of doctors in the areas that really need them, and we know that for tribal communities this need is huge,” said Alicia González-Flores, associate professor of medicine. internal at UC Davis Health. director of Community Health Scholars, which administers PRIME.
UC Davis was selected for the new track in partnership with UC San Diego, which has the largest Native American student cohort among UC medical schools.
The UC Davis School of Medicine has made it a priority to recruit Native American students.
The effort in recent years includes a partnership called RISE, or Reimagine Indians into Medicine, between two other universities and a regional health council. RISE identifies recent college graduates and directs them to an Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) Native American Pathway program called Wy’east. Wy’east’s post-baccalaureate program offers 10 months of pre-med education to citizens of federally recognized tribes for the medical school admission process.
Once students graduate from Wy’east and meet other criteria, they are guaranteed to be accepted by UC Davis, OHSU, or the University of Washington. The collaboration is supported by a grant of nearly $ 1 million over five years from the Indian Health Service of the federal government.
This year, a Wy’east graduate is now studying at UC Davis School of Medicine. Meanwhile, two UC Davis graduate students are at Wy’east and on their way to UC Davis School of Medicine in July.
UC Davis’ Native American outreach effort is led by pediatrician Eric Crossen, an assistant clinical professor.
In addition to RISE, the School of Medicine is part of another partnership with OHSU, called COMPADRE, which aims to expand access to health care between Portland and Sacramento, including in tribal communities.
As part of the New Native American Health Pathway, UC Davis and UC San Diego will each enroll six students per year in the program starting the next school year.
Schools can use part of the funding for scholarships. They may also fund housing grants in remote locations where students will be assigned to clinical placements.
“This level of support is really going to allow us to recruit students that we sometimes lose to other universities for financial reasons,” said González-Flores.
Most importantly, the new curriculum will allow the School of Medicine to better focus its efforts on reaching a specific demographic group and moving closer to health equity.
“The ultimate dream,” said González-Flores, “is to have a positive impact on the health of underserved communities in California by recruiting students who are passionate about their communities and giving them the tools and training to come back and serve. these same communities. “