California Invests in Medical Scholars Program to Help Address Growing Shortages in Healthcare

The State of California is working to strengthen pathways for students from community college to medical school through the California Medicine Scholars Program.

July, 7, 2023 – Sacramento, CA – California has recently made investments to help address physician shortages and regional health disparities through its new budget, including $2.8 million in ongoing annual funding appropriated for the California Medicine Scholars Program. Funds will be administered by the California Department of Healthcare Access and Information (HACI), and will help sustain and grow the California Medicine Scholars Program to improve access to medical care in regions of need. 

Established in 2022, the California Medicine Scholars Program welcomed its first cohort of 197  community college students in Spring 2023. Scholars are supported by four Regional Hubs of Healthcare Opportunity which include community colleges partnering with universities, medical schools, community health clinics and community-based organizations. Together, these institutions collaborate to strengthen pathways and provide pre-med opportunities for students through a range of advising, internship, and volunteer healthcare experiences. 

Today, almost 45% of Californians have insufficient access to a primary care physician. According to a survey released in February by the California Health Care Foundation and NORC at the University of Chicago, the majority of Californians (85%) say that “making sure there are enough doctors, nurses, and other health care providers across California” should be an important priority for the state government to address. In addition, 42% of Black and Latino/x Californians say their community lacks adequate numbers of primary care providers—along with 53% of San Joaquin Valley residents and 48% of people living in the Inland Empire. 

“A diverse and culturally competent health workforce is essential to meeting the unique needs of our communities, specifically in rural areas where access to quality primary care is lacking. The California Medicine Scholars Program is proud to empower a new generation of students and enable them to embark on the path to medical school and, ultimately, serve as physicians in California,” said Rowena Robles, Executive Director of the California Medicine Scholars Program. “We extend our appreciation to the California Department of Health Care Access and Information for its commitment to strengthening the state’s health care workforce through programs like the California Medicine Scholars Program.” 

Through the 2021-22 state budget, HCAI provided $10.5 million for the first three years of the California Medicine Scholars Program; the $2.8 million in annual funding included in the recently enacted 2023-2024 budget will also come from HCAI and help sustain the program to help California’s future doctors complete their educational journey from community colleges to medical school. The Foundation for California Community Colleges serves as the program’s Central Office, helping to leverage the power and diversity of the California Community Colleges. The California Endowment, California Wellness Foundation, and The California Health Care Foundation have also provided generous philanthropic funding. 

To learn more about how California aims to reduce health disparities for communities of color and the essential role the CMSP will play in helping to successfully meet California’s growing need for doctors, please visit: https://californiamedicinescholarsprogram.org/.

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