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Training Program for Medical Students in the Central Valley Approved to Move to UCSF, UCSF Fresno

 |  By Brandy Ramos Nikaido
SJV PRIME students
SJV PRIME students

SJV PRIME students

Students enrolled in the San Joaquin Valley Program in Medical Education (SJV PRIME) will now spend more time in the Valley. SJV PRIME is a training program designed to prepare medical students to address the unique health needs of the region’s diverse and underserved populations. The program started in 2011 as a collaboration among UC Merced, UC Davis, UCSF Fresno and UCSF and was previously based at the UC Davis School of Medicine. The national medical school accrediting body, the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME), recently approved the transfer of the program to the UCSF School of Medicine.

UCSF students enrolled in the program will initially spend 18 months at UCSF in San Francisco and then move to Fresno for the remainder of their medical school training. Previously, medical students spent one year (their third year) in Fresno. Approval to transfer SJV PRIME to UCSF paves the way for a branch campus of the UCSF School of Medicine at UCSF Fresno. 

Current funding provides for a class of 12 students per year in the new UCSF SJV PRIME. The initial class starting in 2019 will have six students.  Future growth of the program will depend on a stable and permanent source of funding and approval by the LCME. 

The UC Davis SJV PRIME will continue in parallel for the first-year medical students admitted recently, and who are expected to graduate in 2022. UC Davis also will continue its Rural-PRIME.

A key rationale for the new SJV PRIME is that medical students in the program will be more likely to pursue medical residencies at UCSF Fresno and other regional programs and stay and practice in the Valley if their education is conducted in and focused on the health needs of Valley communities. This likelihood was a key finding of the April 2018 University of California report “Improving Health Care Access in the San Joaquin Valley.”  

A health care access summit held at UC Merced in June, sponsored by Assembly member Adam Gray and featuring UC President Janet Napolitano, discussed the issue of the low ratios of physicians per population, the aging workforce, and crisis of health care access. Establishing a UCSF branch medical school campus by building on the medical education infrastructure that already exists at UCSF Fresno was applauded as a significant step towards the goal of establishing an independent medical school in the San Joaquin Valley.

“The two best predictors of where physicians will practice are where they complete residency training and where they grew up,” said Michael W. Peterson, MD, associate dean at UCSF Fresno. “About 50 percent of physicians who graduate from UCSF Fresno residency and fellowship programs already remain in the Valley to provide care, and we are optimistic that the percentage will increase with the opportunity for more medical students to train locally.”   

Established in 1975, each year UCSF Fresno currently trains more than 300 medical residents and fellows along with more than 300 medical students from across the U.S. on a rotating basis. The transfer of SJV PRIME to UCSF will enable students to spend more time training in the Valley and creates a continuum for students to go from medical school to residency training in the region.

Applicants to SJV PRIME will follow the UCSF application process. The first class of UCSF SJV PRIME students will start in 2019.