Op-ed: stop UC from eliminating award-winning medical program that creates life-changing physicians

Proposed budget cuts are threatening UC Berkeley’s award-winning medical program, which partners with UCSF to create life-changing physicians. In a fight to keep the program alive, students, staff and alumni are taking action.

Since 1971, the UC Berkeley-UCSF Joint Medical Program (JMP) has been producing innovative physician leaders. Students spend the first part of the program, the pre-clerkship years, studying at UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health before heading to UCSF for the final sprint. It has now trained over 450 highly accomplished physicians, with 70% of all those graduates continuing to practice in California.

Now, because of budget cuts, this critical program may be closed. Funding for it is needed in order to get more highly trained physicians into the industry, physicians who are changing lives and furthering scientific research. 80% of the research projects conducted by JMP Masters candidates directly benefit Californians’ health and wellness.

As a program alumni, Colette Auerswald, MD, MS says, “I would not have embarked on a 20-year career caring and advocating for marginalized children and youth in California had it not been for the JMP. Period.”

Without the needed finances, the JMP will be shut down. That would mean 16 less highly trained California physicians produced per year, lowering UCSF’s graduating class by 10% and the supply of critically needed primary care doctors for our communities. The need in California is especially high; this state is 43rd nationally in the number of primary care physicians per 100,000 population.

Now, here’s where the money currently is. At the moment, UC Berkeley gets about $3.2 million per year for the UCB-UCSF Joint Medical Program (JMP). These funds predominantly come from tuition, fees and dedicated state funds.

However, only $1.3 million of that money reaches the UC Berkeley School of Public Health for the JMP. As the current annual cost of running the JMP is about $1.9 million, that leaves the program $600,000 short, even though far more money should be allocated to it from that original $3.2 million.

Students, staff and alumni from the JMP are seeing the dilemma and taking action.

They started a petition to raise awareness and rally support around this mission: to save this medical program. Two letter writing campaigns are being started, as well as a website (http://www.savethejmp.com/)  and activity on social media through their new Facebook page: (https://www.facebook.com/savethejmp/ ).  

This is more than just an issue for the students and faculty alone; it should be a concern for the community. A high number of highly-trained, passionate physicians required and in demand for throughout California and the rest of the United States. Something especially unique to this program is that 64% of JMP graduates focus with a primary care specialty. In comparison, the average for most medical schools and programs is only 20%.

“UC would be doing a grave disservice to underserved patients in California and elsewhere by cutting the JMP. The program is truly unique and trains an amazing set of future physicians who care deeply about improving health and reducing health disparities while reforming the health care system to save money and lives,” says Chenoa Allen. “While other medical schools struggle to figure out how to train compassionate, empathetic, skilled physicians, JMP has been doing so for decades.”

To show and add your support to saving the award-winning JMP program at UC Berkeley and UCSF, go to iPetitions.com – a free platform on which anyone in the world can start a petition. You’ll find the petition at this link: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/savethejmp.

Berkeleyside welcomes submissions of op-ed articles. We ask that we are given first refusal to publish. Topics should be Berkeley-related, local authors are preferred, and we don’t publish anonymous pieces. Email submissions, as Word documents or embedded in the email, to editors@berkeleyside.com. The recommended length is 500-800 words. Please include your name and a one-line bio that includes full, relevant disclosures. Berkeleyside will publish op-ed pieces at its discretion.

Gower, a daughter of a UC Berkeley alum herself, is the Campaign & PR Manager for iPetitions.com, an online platform that allows anyone in the world to use its tools in order to start a petition, gain worldwide support and make an impact.