Costa Introduces Bill to Curb Physician Shortfall in San Joaquin Valley
(WASHINGTON) Congressman Jim Costa (CA-16) re-introduced H.R. 801, the Expanding Medical Education Act, legislation to provide $1 billion dollars in funding for medical school construction, expansion and training in underserved communities that lack quality access to quality healthcare:
“Access to quality healthcare in the San Joaquin Valley is a serious issue that can no longer be ignored,” said Costa. “We simply do not have enough doctors for our growing population, a problem only made worse by the coronavirus pandemic. This bill makes a significant investment to train medical professionals who want to stay and serve our community by building a medical school in the valley. Growing our own doctors is the only way to confront this doctor shortage and improve access to healthcare for everyone in the Valley and other regions that are underserved.”
Doctor shortages are known to reduce access to medical care by imposing longer wait times and causing people to travel further to see specialists. Poverty, obesity, poor air quality – and now, the COVID-19 pandemic – create a disproportionate need for doctors for the San Joaquin Valley’s 4 million residents. Despite being the fastest growing region in the state, the San Joaquin Valley has the lowest supply of physicians at a ratio of 39 doctors per 100,000 residents, 22% lower than state average.
The Expanding Medical Education Act will work to establish medical training programs in areas of high need, with priorities given to educational institutions that focus on diverse and medically deprived communities, such as UCSF-Fresno and UC Merced.
"On behalf of the UCSF School of Medicine, we thank Rep. Costa for his ongoing commitment to improve health and access to care in the San Joaquin Valley. UCSF has been working to address unmet health care needs in the San Joaquin Valley for more than forty years. This legislation will enable medical education programs like UCSF Fresno to significantly expand efforts by providing funding to recruit students and faculty; plan for expansion of existing programs; build classrooms and other facilities to support expanding program; and fuel pipeline programs to increase opportunities for underrepresented students," said Talmadge E. King, Jr., MD - Dean of the UCSF School of Medicine.
We appreciate and applaud Rep. Costa’s efforts to improve health and health care in our country, especially in underserved areas of the nation like the San Joaquin Valley. It is crucial that the federal government work with state and local leaders to provide ongoing, reliable, and adequate funding to train physicians such as those trained at UCSF Fresno. Roughly 50% of the doctors trained here stay in the Valley to provide much needed care, teach the next generation of physicians, conduct research that addresses the unique health needs of our region and serve the communities where physicians are needed most," said Michael W. Peterson, MD - Associate Dean at UCSF Fresno
“The San Joaquin Valley has been tragically lacking in medical facilities and personnel for many years, and the pandemic has only underscored this critical challenge. Doctors are more likely to practice where they went to school and worked as residents and enhancing medical education with a robust residency network in the Valley is critical to addressing the health care needs of our population. UC Merced and UCSF Fresno, working in partnership, are not only prepared but eager to take up this challenge, and we are grateful to Congressman Costa for his leadership and advocacy” said UC Merced Chancellor Juan Sánchez Muñoz.
The bill will allow such schools to use the grant to:
- Recruit, enroll, and retain students of disadvantaged backgrounds;
- Develop, implement, and expand curriculum that emphasizes care for rural and underserved populations;
- Hire faculty from racial and ethnic groups underrepresented in the health care workforce;
- Support health focused education programs;
- Modernize and expand infrastructure at medial schools.
Co-sponsors of the bill include Congressmembers Josh Harder (CA-10), A. Donald McEachin (VA-04), C.K. Butterfield (NC-01), Lucy McBath (GA-06), and David Trone (MD-06). Virginia Senator Tim Kaine also plans to introduce a companion bill in the Senate in the coming weeks.