Advances in medicine and the application of new technology at the school and medical center over the past 30 years have transformed the delivery of health care in the region, offering many life-saving and leading-edge treatments to the residents of Northern California.
"What began as a small medical school committed to training the best primary-care physicians for the state of California has grown into a major academic medical center that ranks among the best in the nation for both primary and specialty care," said Joseph Silva, Jr., medical school dean.
"Our commitment to training physicians and to meeting the diverse health-care needs of Californians has guided our tremendous growth over the years. As we plan for the future, our commitment to this mission remains strong."
Since their inception, the school and medical center have offered a full range of patient-care services. that are unique to the region and meet critical community needs.
In 1972 when a vintage warplane crashed into an ice cream parlor in Sacramento, there were no local burn specialists to handle the injuries. The incident mobilized a massive effort among firefighters in the community and at UC Davis to establish a Regional Burn Center at the medical center.
Since then, thousands of patients have received life-saving care at UC Davis, and many more are benefitting from the strong partnership that UC Davis forged with Shriners Hospitals for Children Northern California in 1997 to improve the care of patients with burn, orthopaedic and spinal cord injuries.
In the late 1970s, landmark research showed that many deaths from traumatic injuries were preventable if treated immediately by an experienced trauma team. In response, leaders at UC Davis recruited F. William Blaisdell, whom many regard as the father of modern trauma surgery, to develop a level 1 trauma center in Sacramento.
The center, established in 1984, is credited with reducing the preventable death rate in the region from 16 percent in 1981 to .05 percent in 1988. Today, its faculty members are recognized leaders in the field, having developed the standards of care that trauma surgeons throughout the nation follow.
UC Davis has brought many other important and nationally recognized programs to area residents, including a cancer center, children's hospital, regional poison control center, child protection center, skull base surgery center, radiation and toxic-exposure decontamination expertise, Alzheimer's Disease Diagnostic and Treatment Center, and West Coast Center for Palliative Education.
Eliminating geographic boundaries to care
"As the northernmost academic medical center in California, we have taken responsibility for improving the practice of medicine in our immediate area, as well as in rural communities up to the Oregon border," said Robert E. Chason, director of hospital and clinics. "We've been very proactive in establishing strong alliances with physicians, independent community hospitals and health systems in the region and in using the latest in telecommunications technology to reach residents and health-care providers of this large geographic area. These outreach efforts have made UC Davis a vital resource, enabling physicians to provide quality, innovative care that is not available in their area."
In 1992, UC Davis began its first telemedicine project, permitting physicians at Colusa Community Hospital to electronically transmit fetal monitoring vitals to UC Davis physicians who assist in prenatal care and delivery. The connection allows women to stay in their own community instead of traveling up to 80 miles to another hospital. Since then, the UC Davis Telehealth Program has expanded throughout the region, providing other remote monitoring services and a wide range of specialty-care consultations to primary-care clinics, hospitals, home health agencies and county facilities. It was among the first in the nation to link pediatric critical-care specialists with doctors and nurses at a rural hospital, enabling some acutely ill and injured children to avoid unnecessary transport to hospitals outside of their community.
The program has consistently ranked among the top 10 programs in the nation, and its educational arm, the Telemedicine Learning Center, is the most successful program of its kind.
Other new programs, including cancer centers in Marysville and Merced, are allowing more patients to receive treatments from their primary-care physicians and oncologists while having easy access to advanced radiation oncology services and consultations with UC Davis faculty physicians. The arrangements also allow UC Davis to increase rural and radiation oncology training opportunities for medical students and residents and to fulfill its mission of providing care to underserved communities.
Opened in 2000, the centers have met with immediate success. The Fremont-Rideout Cancer Treatment Center in Marysville quickly exceeded its first-year projections for patient visits, and Mercy Cancer Center in Merced treated as many patients within the first few months as it had expected to treat in four years.
Other collaborations at UC Davis stimulate basic and clinical research efforts, which are critical to improving patient care and saving lives.
"No other medical center in the region has access to such an extensive array of resources and mix of basic scientists and physician researchers focused on developing advances in medicine," said Silva. "Our research is focused on addressing some of the most perplexing problems in medicine. As an academic medical center, it's our job to develop and translate these basic research findings into effective new treatments for patients."
Understanding how viruses for Lyme disease, AIDS and other persistent infections compromise the immune system of humans and animals is a major focus for medical and veterinary school faculty at the UC Davis Center for Comparative Medicine. Their work, in collaboration with the Western Regional Primate Research Center, has led to the development of promising new vaccines, which physicians in the infectious diseases division are actively working to make available to patients.
Strong partnerships with the VA Northern California Health System have enhanced many teaching and research programs. And a new partnership with UC San Francisco is bringing the latest pediatric cardiac care to the region.
Collaborations between UC Davis physicians and physical scientists and engineers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory are expanding the capacity to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer, stroke, organ transplant rejection and many other disorders.
"New technology is advancing the practice of medicine by leaps and bounds," said Chason, "and researchers and physicians at UC Davis and collaborating institutions are at the forefront of this change."