Med school: Don't get fooled again

John Taylor: January 30, 20080 Comments

All the important feel-good words were there at the Fresno Board of Supes, which unanimously endorsed a resolution to bring a UC med school to the San Joaquin Valley.

Partnership.... Pipelines.... Collaboration.... Unity....

All the sound reasoning was also present at the Jan. 29 vote.

The Valley is short of doctors ... Short of allied medical professionals....  The infrastructure is already here -- let the medical students do their two years of physical sciences at UC Merced, then do their clinical work at established institutions like Community Medical Centers, which has longstanding and new residency programs through the UC San Francisco Fresno Medical Education Program.... Six other counties are already supporters.

There was even an awareness of fiscal realities.

It takes years to create a medical education program.... The state's economy is in the toilet.... Other areas of the state (as in UC Riverside) already have a jump on getting a medical school going.... There is a business plan being finalized for the San Joaquin Valley's med school that will soon be brought to UC's governing Board of Regents for blessing, and it will need resounding Valley support.

DING. DING. DING. That last fact is key. For those who weren't here or who have very selective memories, the Fresno-area blew itself up with in-fighting that enabled Merced -- the middle of nowhere -- to be promised the campus in 1995.

Even the Fresno of back-then had some muscle -- an airport, a business community, highways, hospitals, higher ed and medical residencies. But back then there were multiple competing Fresno-area sites -- the Academy site, the Table Mountain site in Madera -- and worries about Indian burial sites, aquifers, environmental damage, developer and other political intrigues. There was no regional agreement on a single site and no solid sales pitch.

So the good people in Merced made a more clear-cut offer, and the land of the vernal (aka fairy) shrimp, a hop-skip drive from Silicon Valley and Livermore labs, brought the deal home.

But those good folks did one more thing that should amplify what was said the other day at the Fresno Board of Supes -- they showed up regularly, often en masse, either at Regents meetings in San Francisco or when Regents or key lawmakers wanted to tour the alternately soggy/smoggy rolling hills. As a Fresno Bee reporter at the time, it was hard not to be impressed by their vigor -- and with the political will that eventually pulled this off.

So, you want to be a partner/collaborator on a Valley med school, then unity and turnout in physical numbers (dollars would help, too, and arm-twisting) is key. This idea, this need makes sense. Let's get it totally right this time.