The start of a world-class institution
Back in Davis in 1966, in a field west of campus, the UC Davis School of Medicine was forming in a few temporary buildings. Its founding vision, which still guides the school today, was to become an academic, research and medical powerhouse that could change health care and the world. One key step for the School of Medicine: It needed a teaching hospital. In 1966, UC Davis and Sacramento County signed an affiliation agreement for the County Hospital to be the faculty’s primary clinical teaching facility. The university and the county would share the cost of providing care.
In September 1968, the School of Medicine welcomed its first class with 48 students, including four women. On October 25, the hospital changed its name to the Sacramento Medical Center. This change was planned as part of the 1966 partnership agreement, but the name “Sacramento County Hospital” was written into the county’s charter and changing it required a public referendum in the 1968 election.
On July 1, 1973, the University of California Regents bought the hospital for $1, making it the permanent teaching hospital for the UC Davis School of Medicine. The university did not get a hospital for virtually nothing, however, because the Regents also bought other buildings, land, equipment and supplies for the fair market value of $8 million.
UC Davis had originally planned to build a hospital in Davis near the medical school, but two bond issues that would have funded it failed. Ultimately, that would work out much better for the School of Medicine and the Sacramento region. The urban Sacramento site would provide a broader training experience for students. Just as importantly, it would create a center of care for the economically disadvantaged neighborhoods nearby and a center of medical excellence and advanced care for the entire region.
When UC Davis assumed control of the hospital, it also took responsibility for the care of people most in need — those who were unable to pay for care or who came from backgrounds and communities with health disparities. Caring for the most-needy patients and addressing health and social inequities is a core mission of the university, the hospital and the health system that two decades later would become UC Davis Health.
After a disastrous 1972 air show crash killed 22 people, including 12 children, and injured 28 others, the Firefighters Burn Institute was created in 1974 at the Sacramento hospital. Many of those injured suffered serious burns from the flaming fuel tanks of the jet, which crashed into an ice cream parlor during a little league team celebration. The Burn Institute was established to meet the need for burn care tragically demonstrated by the air disaster, and it continues to be funded from money raised by Sacramento area firefighters.