Photo by Bryan Tuttle

UC Riverside officials will be re-seeking accreditation for the UCR Medical School after obtaining significant financial commitments from the county and the UC Office of the President (UCOP). If the accreditation attempt is successful, the medical school would welcome its first class in August of 2013. UCR Chancellor Timothy P. White wrote in his Friday Letter of March 30, 2012 that the UC state financing office has established a $30 million, 10 year line of credit for the medical school. Additionally, UCOP will commit $2 million annually for the next 10 years in non-state discretionary funds. “It’s really a time to celebrate an important step to allow us to go in front of the accrediting body with confidence,” White said in an interview with the Press-Enterprise. “It feels like we’re making progress.”

The School of Medicine was initially scheduled to open in the fall of 2012 but a lack of secure funding resulted in the rejection of the school’s first attempt at accreditation. Governor Jerry Brown passed a $10 million cut to the UC budget, which was the amount that had been requested for the medical school. UC officials had emphasized that the accreditation rejection stemmed only from the lack of funding and was not tied to the school’s curriculum, structure or any other factor that UC Riverside was responsible for.

“It’s really unfortunate that there’s been a delay but what’s important is that [the School of Medicine] will open soon,” said Benjamin Nabong, a fourth-year UC Riverside student who plans on applying to medical school. “This new medical school will definitely build UCR’s reputation in the long run and it provides the opportunity to students who want to enter the medical field.”

The announcement is seen as a victory for those who have long petitioned for the school’s opening. With an estimated shortage of 3,000 primary care physicians in the Inland region, medical school advocates were backed by statistical data which shed light on the need for a nearby medical school. “The medical school will be an economic stimulus to the region, as well as improving access to healthcare,” White stated in the Friday Letter of March 30. “There is a well-documented need for more physicians and better health care access in Inland Southern California, which lags near the bottom in nearly every measure of health when compared to other counties in the state.” During the January’s UC Board of Regents meetings held at UC Riverside, a large portion of the public forum period consisted of individuals urging the regents to make the medical school their top priority.

Aside from the state and the University of California, the medical school has received a substantial amount of funding from local groups including the County of Riverside, Riverside Medical Clinic, the Desert Healthcare District and annual funding from the school’s initial medical partners. Combined with other grants and private donations, these contributions have directed tens of millions of dollars toward the medical school. “We are very grateful that many private donors have also participated, and many have indicated that accreditation will make the effort even more attractive to them,” stated White in his Friday Letter.

The annual guarantee of $10 million will likely enable the School of Medicine to enroll 50 students a year. This number was originally 80 but the lack of funding had caused the number to decline.