UCR expands School of Medicine to Palm Desert campus

UC Riverside is pursuing the acquisition of an 11-acre land in the city of Palm Desert as a residency location for medical students.

The Oversight Board of the Palm Desert Successor Agency and California Department of Finance had unanimously voted for the land transfer last month. Palm Desert City Council has scheduled the final vote of the land transfer for May 23, but most council members have already indicated their support, according to Martin Alvarez, Director of Economic Development at City of Palm Desert. Now the decision hinges upon the UC Board of Regents’ further regulatory examinations for its final sanction.

The land, situated adjacent to the Palm Desert Extension Center, will provide clinical services for the local community and a residency program for medical students at UCR.

The land transfer option was an addendum incorporated into the original agreement signed between the University of California and the city of Palm Desert. The decade-old contract made room for the construction of the UCR Palm Desert Center, which opened in 2005. It has since served as an extension site that offers special master’s degree programs for UCR graduate students.

Only recently did UCR request for a formal transfer of the remaining unused land for medical program development.

“Our goal is more than building a medical school,” Executive Director of the School of Medicine Kathy Barton explained in regards to the vision of developing the campus. “Of course there’s the four years of [medical] school training, but after [medical] school, students must go through residency trainings in order to become practicing physicians,” she said.

As one of the fastest-growing regions in the United States, accommodating more than 4.2 million inhabitants, the Inland Empire has the lowest per capita physician ratio in all of California with just 120 doctors available per 100,000 people. The primary function of Palm Desert Health Campus, thus, is to open clinics that will address the severe physician shortage.

Barton explained that much of the determining factor for where a physician will practice is where that physician finishes his or her medical training. By offering clinical services and investing in the residency training program, the university hopes to keep physicians in the Inland Empire.

According to a report by City of Palm Desert University Planning Committee, the health campus will consist of labs, a pharmacy, a clinical building, a surgery center, a geriatric activity center and a rehabilitation pool. Once UCR accepts the land transfer, the construction is expected to be completed in three years.

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