UC Davis establishes new medical education partnership with Tahoe Forest Health System

Innovative program trains primary care physicians in rural settings

Photo of medical student Blair Campbell with infant © Tahoe Forest Health System 2009
Blair Campbell, a third-year medical student, has begun her ob/gyn rotation at Tahoe Forest Hospital, the first Rural-PRIME site.

A UC Davis program designed to help increase health-care access in rural areas of the state entered a new phase this year with the formal announcement of its first training site.

In April, UC Davis School of Medicine and the Tahoe Forest Health System celebrated the university's Rural-PRIME program during a ceremony in Truckee, Calif. The event recognized Truckee as the first official site beyond Sacramento where the School of Medicine will train its medical students as the next generation of rural physicians. Officials from each health system signed an agreement to formalize the new program.

In late June, three UC Davis medical students began their Rural-PRIME rotations in primary care, ob/gyn and pediatrics at Tahoe Forest.

“It is wonderful here,” said Blair Campbell, a third-year medical student. “The physicians have been very dedicated to teaching and encourage a real hands-on experience. The obstetrics staff is so supportive and they offer a very personalized experience for patients. Tahoe is a fabulous community with a variety of patients. The outlying areas especially offer a rural perspective on medicine and health care.”

Rural-PRIME is part of the University of California's "Programs in Medical Education" (or PRIME), which is designed to produce physician leaders who are trained in and committed to helping California's underserved communities. By 2015, experts predict the state will face a significant shortage of physicians, with rural communities struggling to provide health care with fewer doctors per resident than in urban areas.

Photo of Tom Nesbitt © UC Regents"Tahoe Forest Health System is a model of excellence in rural health care and offers our students a first-rate learning opportunity."
— Thomas Nesbitt, UC Davis School of Medicine associate vice chancellor

Rural patients have poorer outcomes than their urban counterparts on several health measures, including higher levels of chronic conditions, higher rates of hospitalizations and higher rates of cancer deaths. The Rural-PRIME program was specifically developed to address problems with access to care and help reduce the health-care disparities frequently found among rural populations.

Learn more about Rural-PRIME

Photo of stethescope © iStockPhotoBy 2015, California will be facing a huge shortage of physicians.  Twenty percent of the population in California lives in rural areas, but only nine percent of physicians practice rurally. With these disparities, rural patients have poorer outcomes on several measures than their urban counterparts: higher levels of chronic conditions, higher rates of hospitalizations and higher rates of cancer deaths.

Rural-PRIME was developed to address the lack of access in rural areas, and to reduce health care disparities in rural populations.

Click here to learn more.

"Tahoe Forest Health System is a model of excellence in rural health care and offers our students a first-rate learning opportunity," said Thomas Nesbitt, associate vice chancellor for strategic technologies and alliances for the UC Davis School of Medicine. "It will help students to understand the importance of teamwork and evidence-based medicine, while also allowing them to experience a broad scope of practice, great relationships with patients and the knowledge that physicians can make a big difference in smaller communities. It's a terrific pathway for medical school graduates, who will learn the need and value of being a doctor in a rural area."

As one of the five PRIME curricula within the UC medical school system, Rural-PRIME provides a range of education, including training in public health issues and the use of leading-edge medical technologies such as telemedicine to provide specialty medical care in remote locations. The program will include additional clerkship training sites in rural areas of the Central Valley, foothill region and northern reaches of the state.

"Rural-PRIME is the latest is a series of important affiliations between our health system and UC Davis," said Bob Schapper, chief executive officer for Tahoe Forest Health System, who noted that Tahoe Forest joined the UC Davis Cancer Care Network last fall and is planning other collaborations as well. "We're excited to have UC Davis medical students learning alongside our physicians because we think it will help convince these doctors-in-training to eventually establish primary care practices in smaller communities like ours."

Clerkship rotations at sites such as Tahoe Forest last between four to eight weeks, depending on the specialty. All students will remain in contact with their School of Medicine instructors via telemedicine connections between Truckee and Sacramento, which utilize the high-tech videoconferencing connections established for the Cancer Care Network.