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Increasing Access to Health Care

How is UCR’s School of Medicine helping the community?

By Lauren Del Sarto
UCR Medical School Resident Class of 2018

In the summer of 2015, the newly formed UCR School of Medicine welcomed its first eight family medicine residents. With goals of attracting more doctors to the valley and increasing access to health care, the program is now entering its third year with a total of 24 residents.

Has the program helped our community? The answer is an unequivocal yes.

More family practice doctors

Even before any of the graduating residents join as staff, seven family medicine physicians were brought on as working faculty: one internal medicine doctor, one physician dually board-certified in internal medicine and pediatrics, and five pediatricians.

A family medicine clinic was also opened and saw more than 10,000 patient visits in its first year. The pediatric faculty also runs an in-patient service at Desert Regional with plans to expand to an out-patient program in the near future. “We hope to grow our services locally so we don’t have to send patients outside of this region for care,” says program director Gemma Kim, MD.

Additionally, seven of the original eight residents are currently applying for full-time positions at Desert Regional. This class will graduate from the three-year program next summer.

Increasing access

In addition to the clinic, the medical school has improved access to care through community outreach, including the street medicine program and sex education in schools.

Every other week, volunteer physicians and residents don backpacks and hit the streets to reach those less mobile. Working with Well in the Desert and local churches, the doctors treat anyone who needs their care, including many of the valley’s homeless population. UCR is currently working with the Desert Healthcare District to secure a mobile van to increase the number of people they can serve.

Working with the Palm Springs Unified School District and Planned Parenthood, UCR is also sending residents to discuss sexually transmitted diseases and contraception to seventh and eighth graders. “Sex education in the schools is not new,” says Kim, “but having a younger doctor present the information encourages students to ask more questions than they might of a parent or teacher.” Female residents speak with female students and male residents speak with male students and feedback has been very positive. They are planning to add more topics, such as anatomy and physiology, along with more schools in the future.

“In two short years, we have accomplished quite a bit,” says Kim. With their full ACGME accreditation obtained in 2016, the UCR School of Medicine is well positioned to continue increasing the number of doctors in our community and providing valuable programs for the underserved.

For more information on the UCR School of Medicine Family Medicine Residency program contact Nastassia Valenzuela (760) 561.7344.

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