Hello, my UCR Health colleagues.
Happy July. Now that we’re full steam into the summer and its heat, I thought I’d take this time to address another hot topic: our physician shortage. Even though UCR Health is not the only healthcare system in the Inland Empire experiencing such a shortage, how it impacts us and what we plan to do to address the issue is key to helping solve this problem.
Even though Inland Southern California is a huge area with a population of about 4.64 million people, we don’t have nearly enough primary care doctors to assist in their care. So, physician recruitment and retention are of paramount importance to us. And we do have plans and strategies to do just that. Some are strategies we can implement right now, others will take several years to complete, but to finish any journey, you first have to get started in the right direction.
Here’s the map we’re following:
Our Pathways Program. As you all know, going into medicine can be a challenge. There is the daunting aspect of funding, but there is the equally overwhelming education part. With Pathways, we start with outreach to K – 8 grades. Then, in high school, we help guide students toward careers in health and medicine, ideally in our Inland Southern California home. If we are successful in recruiting from our own backyard, we can be equally successful in getting physicians to stay here in the place they love, where their family and friends live, and where they can make the most difference. The 10 Pathway programs can stand alone or build upon one another throughout each student’s academic career and assist in recruiting, advising, and mentoring UCR future health professionals.
Diversity. We’re a culturally diverse society, and we must have healthcare providers who understand the various cultures – who live them – to effectively treat our patients. We want to help those interested in practicing medicine right here to have what they need to succeed, including a scholarship that pays student debt within five years if someone commits to staying in the Inland Empire. Ultimately, bringing greater diversity to the Inland Southern California healthcare workforce, which currently does not reflect the ethnic fabric of the region, addresses this issue. Our activities, like academic and career exploration, parental involvement, and financial support, are specifically designed to enhance students’ readiness for medical school.
A strategic growth plan. In order for UCR Health to address our current physician shortage, we need to plan for the future. To that end, we’re developing four key strategies to strengthen UCR Health and position the UCR School of Medicine for explosive growth.
Strategy #1: Expand and grow the structure and operations of the clinical enterprise to serve the Inland Southern California community. This means developing the infrastructure and environment to encourage clinician productivity and enjoyment in “being in medicine.”
Strategy #2: Explore opportunities to provide clinical services through an FQHC structure. As you know, we’re in the process of re-opening Hulen Place Clinic in Riverside to provide needed care to the homeless population. We’re also beginning to explore other FQHC sites to deliver more care via needed clinics for those enrolled in Medicare, Medi-Cal or no insurance program at all.
Strategy #3: Expand access to clinical opportunities in partnership with Southern California UC health systems. We want to grow. And the best way to do that is by collaborating with other UC systems to develop specialty services that will provide access to quality specialty care. More diverse healthcare services will also assist in retaining more diverse providers.
Strategy #4: Assess the viability of partnership options to best deliver service to the Inland Southern California community. Our number one goal is the health of our residents, and we continue to explore innovative ways to do that while maintaining our commitment to helping those most in need.
As a young lifeguard and EMT, I always wondered what happened after someone needing medical attention left the beach. That led me to a life of medicine because I wanted to make an impact. To make a difference. I believe that’s why we all chose this path. If we keep our focus, maintain our strategies by defining clear objectives, and work toward implementation, I know we’ll be able to recruit more providers, making your lives easier.
Let’s work together to make that happen and focus on bringing health care home for even more people in the community.
Thank you for being part of the excellence of UCR Health. Enjoy your July.