July 30, 2020

Gift to School of Medicine aims to alleviate inland Southern California’s physician shortage

Inland Empire Health Plan’s gift of $2.6M will create up to 23 awards designed to encourage students to practice in the region

Author: Iqbal Pittalwala
July 30, 2020

The School of Medicine at the University of California, Riverside, has received a gift of about $2.6 million from the Inland Empire Health Plan, or IEHP, to provide Mission Awards for the school’s students.

The gift to the school’s Mission Award program will support up to 23 medical students with tuition and fees who will go on to practice in inland Southern California upon their graduation. The medically underserved region faces a critical shortage in both primary care and specialist physicians with only 35 primary care physicians per 100,000 people — far short of the 60 to 80 per 100,000 recommended by the California Health Care Foundation.

Recipients of the four-year awards will need to commit to returning to Riverside, San Bernardino, or Imperial counties after completing their residencies to provide clinical care for at least five consecutive years; recipients of the two-year awards will need to commit to returning to one of these counties after completing their residencies to provide clinical care for at least 30 consecutive months.

“Inland Empire Health Plan is a terrific partner to the UCR School of Medicine, and our organizations are aligned in our missions to improve access to health care in the Inland Empire,” said Dr. Deborah Deas, vice chancellor for health sciences and Mark and Pam Rubin Dean of the School of Medicine. “We are so grateful for this incredibly generous investment in our future physician workforce. The impact of this gift is tremendous because it will increase the number of physicians in the Inland Empire and improve the health care for a largely underserved population.”

Students in good academic standing in the medical school are eligible for the Mission Awards, which are either for all four years of medical school or for two years, covering the third and fourth years. Each award covers 100% of tuition and fees. Currently, the first two years of medical school education at UC Riverside cost about $43,000 per year; the third and fourth years cost about $47,000 per year. Summer sessions in the third and fourth years incur additional costs.

“UCR School of Medicine’s mission and commitment to serve and support Inland Empire communities is no secret,” said IEHP Chief Executive Officer Jarrod McNaughton. “We see this commitment in the framework of their programs and in the hearts of their students. It is our hope that these awards encourage local students to consider careers in medicine and further incentivize qualified students to remain and serve in the Inland Empire.”

All Mission Award recipients must also agree to practice in one of the following specialties: emergency medicine, pediatrics, family medicine, general internal medicine, OB/GYN, general surgery, or psychiatry. Should an award recipient fail to meet these requirements, the award would convert into a loan that must be repaid upon graduation.

The UCR School of Medicine, which opened in 2013, trains a diverse workforce of physicians who seek to improve the health of the medically underserved in the region. About half of the enrolled students come from socioeconomically and/or educationally disadvantaged backgrounds. Approximately a quarter of the medical students are the first in their families to acquire a college degree. 

To date, the medical school has graduated four classes totaling 198 students, of which 156 have remained in California. The class of 2020 graduated and took the Hippocratic Oath on May 29.

IEHP is one of the top 10 largest Medicaid health plans and the largest nonprofit Medicare-Medicaid plan in the country. With a network of more than 6,400 providers and more than 2,000 employees, IEHP serves more than 1.2 million residents in Riverside and San Bernardino counties who are enrolled in Medicaid or the Cal MediConnect Plan. 

Header image by Elena Zukhova.

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