NEWS | January 25, 2013

Enhanced training in primary care thanks to state support


The California Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development (OSHPD) has awarded more than $300,000 to UC Davis training programs that help ensure a robust primary health-care workforce in California.

Dr. Balsbaugh (center) and UC Davis residents Dr. Balsbaugh (center) and UC Davis residents

Through the Song-Brown Program, OSHPD provided the university’s Family and Community Medicine Residency Program with $206,460 and its Family Nurse Practitioner and Physician Assistant Program with $135,000. The funding will be used to expand community-engagement and student-recruitment efforts and to enhance curriculum in the “medical home” concept of team-based, coordinated patient care, an approach that improves outcomes while lowering costs.

“Song-Brown funding helps ensure that we remain at the forefront of state and national efforts to meet the primary-care needs of diverse populations and improve access to comprehensive, culturally appropriate care for everyone,” said Tom Balsbaugh, UC Davis associate clinical professor and director of the Family and Community Medicine Residency Program.

While interest in primary-care residencies has decreased nationwide, that trend is reversing at UC Davis, Balsbaugh explained. In 2012, the American Academy of Family Physicians ranked UC Davis 12th among U.S. medical schools in the percentage of graduates selecting a career focus in primary care, which includes pediatrics, internal medicine and family medicine. UC Davis was also the only California medical school included among the top 20.

“The increasing number of medical students at UC Davis selecting primary-care residencies in recent years is very encouraging, and funding like the OSHPD grants are critical to keeping that momentum going,” said Balsbaugh.

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the U.S. is expected to have a shortage of 45,000 primary-care physicians by the end of the decade. In California — with current shortages of primary-care physicians in most of its counties, the nation’s largest percentage of practicing primary-care physicians nearing retirement and more rural, inner urban and fast-growing communities than other states — the deficit is expected to be more pronounced. 

To help bridge that care gap, UC Davis also provides top-quality graduate-level education for family nurse practitioners and physician assistants — practitioners who can examine, diagnose and treat patients as part of a health-care team.

“These providers are uniquely positioned to improve access to preventive, chronic disease management and acute health-care services, especially for vulnerable populations,” said Debra Bakerjian, assistant adjunct professor at the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing and vice chair for the Family Nurse Practitioner and Physician Assistant Program at UC Davis. “They can also ease the primary-care shortage sooner, since their training time is compressed.”

The Song-Brown Program was established in 1973 by the state legislature to assure access to primary-care services for Californians. UC Davis has been one of the largest recipients of the funding, with a total amount exceeding $5 million. More information about the program is available at

UC Davis Health System is improving lives and transforming health care by providing excellent patient care, conducting groundbreaking research, fostering innovative, interprofessional education, and creating dynamic, productive partnerships with the community. The academic health system includes one of the country's best medical schools, a 619-bed acute-care teaching hospital, a 1,000-member physician's practice group and the new Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing. It is home to a National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center, an international neurodevelopmental institute, a stem cell institute and a comprehensive children's hospital. Other nationally prominent centers focus on advancing telemedicine, improving vascular care, eliminating health disparities and translating research findings into new treatments for patients. Together, they make UC Davis a hub of innovation that is transforming health for all. For more information, visit the health system's website at