Talented students who dream of becoming physicians but worry about the high cost of attending medical school have a new and promising opportunity at the UC Davis School of Medicine. The school has been awarded a four-year, $2.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to provide scholarships to economically disadvantaged medical students.
UC Davis plans to use the new funding to provide $15,000 scholarships to more than 40 students each year who are interested in becoming primary care doctors in medically underserved communities.
"We are at a crucial time in health care," said Fred Meyers, executive associate dean, whose responsibilities include overseeing the teaching and community engagement missions for the medical school. "More than 5.5 million Californians live in medically underserved areas, places that have too few primary-care providers, higher-than-average infant mortality rates and high poverty rates. This new grant enables UC Davis to help reduce health disparities by encouraging and supporting the development of more primary-care physicians who represent diverse backgrounds."
Meyers said that UC Davis is determined to improve the quality of health care through innovations in clinical practices and a focus on the unique health needs of the communities its medical students will serve when they become physicians. He noted the school's emphasis on developing interprofessional teams to deliver patient- and family-centered care includes having physicians who can be role models of cultural inclusiveness.
"We know there are many academically qualified and talented students from diverse backgrounds who could become great physicians if they didn't have to worry about the financial challenges to getting a medical degree," said Tonya Fancher, associate professor of internal medicine who is overseeing much of the new grant program. "These scholarships address one of the major barriers to pursuing an advanced degree in medicine. The funding also allows UC Davis to expand its physician-training pipeline by increasing our student outreach and retention efforts."
The current cost of a four-year medical degree at UC Davis, including housing or food, is approximately $244,000. Students have an average debt of $139,000 after four years in school. About 100 students per year graduate from the School of Medicine.
UC Davis School of Medicine is known for graduating a high percentage of graduates who choose to practice medicine in rural and other underserved areas of the state. Many of its newly minted physicians eventually practice in Northern California. The school's curriculum features three community-oriented programs - or tracks - that focus on medically underserved areas of the state: rural, urban inner city and the San Joaquin Valley.
"Underserved communities are unable to provide optimal care for their residents," said Fancher. "Part of the reason is the lack of physicians. The Central Valley, for example, has some of the lowest rates of primary-care physicians in the state. Our goal is to increase that number and make sure they better reflect the populations they serve."
In addition to student scholarships, the school's retention and outreach initiatives for current and potential medical students include programs ranging from middle and high school presentations about health-care professions, to test preparation and pre-med advising for college undergraduates, to an array of educational support and counseling services that help students complete medical school and achieve success during residency and clinical practice.
HRSA's Scholarships for Disadvantaged Students program was established through the Disadvantaged Minority Health Improvement Act of 1990. Participating academic institutions are responsible for selecting scholarship recipients based on reasonable determinations of need. For more information about the UC Davis School of Medicine, visit http://www.ucdmc.ucdavis.edu/medschool/.