Sunday, June 10, 2012

UC Riverside medical school dean is changing the rules

If the UC Riverside School of Medicine opens in fall 2013, it won’t look like other medical schools. It will not have its own medical center — students will be farmed out to local hospitals — and the school’s dean, G. Richard Olds, says the way doctors will be trained is a 180-degree shift from the current medical school model.
Among those differences:
A focus on producing more primary care physicians — rather than specialists — who would establish practices in the Inland area.
Emphasizing illness prevention — instead of focusing on treating people who are already sick — by working in cooperation with local health agencies.
Using outpatient and community clinics for much of young doctors’ training instead of nearly exclusive use of a large hospital setting.
Drawing support and funding from local government, healthcare networks and private entities, instead of relying mostly on monies from the state level.
“We’re probably the only medical school doing what we’re doing,” Olds said. “If enough of what we do works, in 20 to 30 years, everybody will be doing it.”
UCR officials had originally planned to open the school this fall, but a lack of state funding amid the budget crisis derailed the school’s attempt at accreditation last year. Since then, Olds has secured commitments of $100 million over 10 years, largely from UC sources, local government and community health organizations. He believes the sum is sufficient for accreditation.
Seismic retrofitting and remodeling of the campus’ medical education building is due to be completed by August, and Olds is busily going through applications, looking for 15 to 20 medical scientists and about 25 medical doctors to create a bare-bones staff. He plans to have an initial non-teaching staff of 20 to 30 people to handle the anticipated 2013 class of 50 students. Eventually, once the state is in a position to provide ongoing funding, he sees the school’s staff increasing to about 1,000 people.
Today, only one in six new doctors is a general practitioner, Olds said. The other five are specialists. That imbalance has shifted the way medical care is provided, he said, focusing more on making sick people well, rather than keeping them from getting sick in the first place. He wants to reverse that.