UCSF Establishes UCSF Fresno as a ‘Branch Campus’ of the UCSF School of Medicine

By Laura Kurtzman

UCSF Fresno Center for Medical Education and Research building.
UCSF Fresno Center for Medical Education and Research.

UCSF School of Medicine is establishing a "branch campus" at UCSF Fresno, to lead the San Joaquin Valley Program in Medical Education (SJV PRIME), a training program designed to prepare medical students to address the unique health needs of the region’s diverse and underserved populations. UCSF students enrolled in the program will spend 18 months at UCSF in San Francisco and then move to Fresno for the remainder of their medical school training.

Up to six students will be accepted in the fall of 2019, with the goal of achieving an incoming SJV PRIME class of 12 students. 

The program, previously based at the UC Davis School of Medicine, was recently transferred to UCSF with the approval of the national medical school accrediting body, the Liaison Committee on Medical Education, paving the way for the branch campus at UCSF Fresno. The campus is distinct from, but operates under, the accreditation of the UCSF School of Medicine. 

The UC Davis PRIME will continue in parallel for the rising first-year medical students admitted this year, who are expected to graduate in 2022.

A key premise of the SJV PRIME is that medical students in the program will be more likely to apply for their medical residencies at the UCSF Fresno Medical Education Program—an established clinical and educational branch of UCSF – or other regional residency programs and are ultimately more likely to stay and practice in the Valley. This likelihood was a key finding of the April 2018 University of California report “Improving Health Care Access in the San Joaquin Valley.”

“The establishment of a branch medical campus at UCSF Fresno and the transfer of SJV PRIME to UCSF creates an exciting opportunity for students who are passionately pursuing medical education, clinical care, and research, to address the unmet needs and unique health issues impacting the San Joaquin Valley,” said Talmadge E. King, Jr., MD, dean of the UCSF School of Medicine. “We expect this new development will enable us to further address physician shortages in the region, and academically prepare a pipeline of students, particularly those from the Valley, for careers in health and medicine,” he said.

“The two best predictors of where physicians will practice are where they complete residency training and where they grew up,” said Michael W. Peterson, MD, associate dean at UCSF Fresno. “About 50 percent of physicians who graduate from UCSF Fresno residency and fellowship programs already remain in the Valley to provide care, and we are optimistic that the percentage will increase with the opportunity for more medical students to train locally.”   

The UCSF SJV PRIME will be the second UC PRIME offered at the UCSF School of Medicine, joining the nationally recognized Program in Medical Education for the Urban Underserved (PRIME-US), which is a five-year program for medical students committed to working with urban underserved communities.

UC PRIME was established in 2004 and is now conducted at UC’s medical schools in Davis, Irvine, San Diego, Los Angeles and San Francisco. UC PRIME is focused on meeting the needs of California’s underserved populations in both rural and urban communities, by incorporating specialized coursework, structured clinical experiences, advanced independent study and mentoring into the medical education curriculum. These activities are organized and structured to prepare highly motivated, socially conscious students as future clinicians, leaders, and policymakers. Each new PRIME has an area of focus based upon faculty expertise, the populations served by each medical school and its medical center, and other local considerations. 

Partnerships with regional four-year undergraduate universities, including UC Merced, will be instrumental to the success of UCSF SJV PRIME, King said. UC Merced faculty are already providing some of the foundational science instruction to UCSF medical students during their clinical rotations at UCSF Fresno. Existing partnerships with UC Merced and Fresno State, aimed at preparing a pipeline of students interested and academically eligible to apply to health professional schools, will continue.

Like students in PRIME-US, SJV PRIME students will form a cohort, participating in co-curricular experiences at San Francisco and Fresno that help them develop expertise to address the major causes of morbidity and mortality in these underserved communities.

Applicants to SJV PRIME will follow the UCSF application process. The first class of UCSF SJV PRIME students will start in 2019.

About UCSF Fresno: UCSF Fresno Medical Education Program is a branch campus of UCSF, the leading institution dedicated exclusively to the health sciences. Established in 1975, UCSF Fresno is focused on improving health in California’s San Joaquin Valley through excellence in teaching and patient care, innovative clinical research and community partnerships. UCSF Fresno is the largest physician-training program between Sacramento and Los Angeles – training more than 300 medical residents and fellows and more than 300 visiting medical students from around the United States on a rotating basis, each year.  Nearly 700 UCSF core and volunteer faculty at UCSF Fresno care for thousands of patients annually and train the next generation of outstanding clinicians and patient advocates. About 50 percent of the physicians trained at UCSF Fresno stay in the Valley to provide UCSF care. In addition, UCSF Fresno helps prepare middle, high school, and college students for careers in health and medicine through a variety of pipeline programs.

UC San Francisco (UCSF) is a leading university dedicated to promoting health worldwide through advanced biomedical research, graduate-level education in the life sciences and health professions, and excellence in patient care. It includes top-ranked graduate schools of dentistry, medicine, nursing and pharmacy, as well as, a graduate division with nationally renowned programs in basic, biomedical, translational and population sciences; and a preeminent biomedical research enterprise. It also includes UCSF Health, which comprises three top-ranked hospitals – UCSF Helen Diller Medical Center at Parnassus Heights and UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals in San Francisco and Oakland – as well as Langley Porter Psychiatric Hospital and Clinics, UCSF Benioff Children’s Physicians and the UCSF Faculty Practice. UCSF Health has affiliations with hospitals and health organizations throughout the Bay Area. UCSF faculty also provide all physician care at the public Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center, and the SF VA Medical Center. The UCSF Fresno Medical Education Program is a major branch of the University of California, San Francisco’s School of Medicine.