Opening of medical school at UC Riverside may be delayed

Plans to open a medical school at UC Riverside next year appeared uncertain Wednesday after officials announced that the school had been denied initial accreditation because of concerns about the cash-strapped state’s ability to provide funding.

The first 50 students were expected to enroll next summer at the medical school, which would be the sixth in the UC system. The school, approved by UC regents in 2008, is intended to ease a physician shortage in the Inland Empire area and to bolster UC Riverside’s academic reputation.

UC officials have 30 days to appeal the denial of preliminary accreditation and to scramble for a commitment of about $10 million a year in state funding. If the effort fails, the first class won’t start until at least 2013 as the school keeps trying, UC Riverside Chancellor Timothy P. White said.

“We are going to redouble our efforts to seek these sustaining and recurring funds from the folks in Sacramento,” White said in a conference call with reporters Wednesday afternoon. He acknowledged that it would be a tough task, given the state’s deficit and continuing turmoil in Sacramento over the budget.


Riverside County has promised to provide $5 million annually to the school for the next two years. But the accrediting agency, known as the Liaison Committee on Medical Education, wants a state pledge to provide the rest of the school’s budget, according to White and medical school dean G. Richard Olds. Private donations could offset the state dollars, they said.

The accrediting agency is sponsored by the Assn. of American Medical Colleges and the Council on Medical Education of the American Medical Assn. Without accreditation, medical schools cannot receive federal grants or recognition of graduates’ degrees. Agency officials declined to comment, referring all questions back to UC Riverside.

Unlike most medical schools, UC Riverside’s would not have its own hospital but would affiliate with medical centers in the area. The university recently built a classroom facility for the school and has hired administrators to plan its curriculum. Officials emphasized that the school’s academic plans passed muster for accreditation.

They also said the setback would not affect a 30-year-old joint program that trains 48 first- and second-year medical students at UC Riverside and sends them to UCLA to complete their degrees.