Inaugural class of 50 students begins a pioneering journey.
An admiring crowd of 700 people cheered on the inaugural class of 50 students in UC Riverside’s School of Medicine on Friday (Aug. 9). Each student slipped into the doctor’s white coat, held by a faculty member, to mark the beginning of four years of hard work.
The live string quartet, floral arrangements, beautiful programs and colorful lights are not typical for UCR’s Student Recreation Center — the home court of UCR basketball — but the campus needed its biggest room to fit the students, the families, the faculty and all the community supporters of this new kind of medical school, designed to increase the supply of primary care doctors practicing in the Inland Empire.
“I’ve been telling the students this is a once in a lifetime event, like the sighting of Haley’s comet, said Kendrick A. Davis, director of medical education for the UCR School of Medicine. “It is rare that you are in the right spot and you can take advantage of it. It is beyond a milestone. You are talking about embarking on something that hasn’t really been done, the way that we are doing it,” he said. “Every person involved in this is a pioneer, so you have to be excited about it, and be willing to put in all the work to make this successful.”
The mission of the UCR School of Medicine is to improve the health of the Inland Empire by producing culturally diverse primary care doctors who will stay and practice medicine in the area, which has a chronic shortage of doctors. UCR has had the first part of a medical school program for more than 30 years, but the students always finished their work at other medical schools, including UCLA. Now medical school students can stay to finish their M.D. UCR is also developing residency training programs in partnership with regional hospitals.
The effort to establish the school took a concerted community effort over many years, capped off recently with a state budget deal that included $15 million in annual funding, thanks to the successful advocacy of the Inland Empire Caucus, the Monday Morning Group and Inland Action. This is UC’s sixth medical school and California’s first new public medical school in four decades.
“We are at the end of a long relay,” said Dr. G. Richard Olds, the founding dean of the School of Medicine. “Each time we had a roadblock, our community doubled down on their effort. I want to thank everyone for that effort.”
Five people earned honorary white coats for the heavy lifting in the last stretch of a 10-year long relay race: State Sen. Richard Roth; Assemblymember Jose Medina; interim Chancellor Jane Close Conoley; and two leaders from the University of California Office of the President, Dan Dooley and Patrick Lenz.