The graduation of UC Davis School of Medicine’s 50th class on May 22, 2021 and considerable global progress in the battle against COVID-19 mark a hopeful new chapter.

The Class of 2021 and all our exceptional medical students have shown incredible leadership, perseverance and commitment to caring for everyone, especially our underserved communities. This is exemplified by our student volunteers at the Shifa student-run clinic who organized COVID-19 vaccine clinics and immunized thousands of vulnerable community members. Our students, faculty and residents also volunteered at the many UC Davis Health vaccination clinics in our region in the last year.

I am grateful to our students and faculty for our shared commitment and partnership to advance health equity. A powerful example of this is the student, faculty and staff collaboration that resulted in the recent elimination of race-based references in the standard estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) test to check our patients’ kidney health. UC Davis Health is among the first health systems in the nation to make this change to the eGFR.

In collaboration with our students, faculty and stakeholders, our school is actively looking at clerkship grade inequities and working with the American Association of Medical Colleges to explore solutions to such national inequities in medicine. While there is a great deal more work to do, I am heartened by the changes we are collectively making as we work to create a more equitable School of Medicine and tackle the larger issue of inequities in medicine as a whole.

This spring, U.S. News & World Report ranked UC Davis School of Medicine as the fourth most diverse medical school in the country, No. 9 in family medicine and No. 11 in primary care training. We were also featured on the May 2021 cover of INSIGHT into Diversity magazine, highlighting the effectiveness of our holistic admissions approach to create a more diverse physician work force. While we have made strides in the diversity of our medical students, we will continue our work to significantly expand diversity  in our faculty and leadership.

On May 3, 2021 we launched our leading-edge I-EXPLORE curriculum, which emphasizes cross-disciplinary collaboration and focuses on the pillars of biomedical science, clinical science and health system science. I-EXPLORE will be a keystone to preparing our students to practice medicine in an ever-changing health care landscape. This is also a critical component as we prepare for our LCME accreditation renewal in 2022.

Since UC Davis Health treated the nation’s first known community acquired case of COVID-19 in February 2020, the School of Medicine has been a catalyst for unprecedented campus-wide research collaboration across disciplines and real-time problem solving. This resulted in groundbreaking rapid asymptomatic COVID testing in collaboration with the UC Davis main campus that received national recognition as model to protect public health.

In 2020, the School of Medicine also received its highest-ever National Institutes of Health research funding with more than $181 million. Bringing our research discoveries and care innovations to our patients’ bedside is one of the greatest benefits of academic medicine.

To incentivize collaborative science across departments and centers through-out UC Davis, in May, we launched the Cultivating Team Science seed grant program, awarding $200,000 in research grants to two different teams. Next year we will expand the program to three teams.

Looking ahead, we will continue to grow and diversify our research, including expanding our clinical trials to offer our patients new, potentially life-saving treatments for COVID-19, stem cell treatments, cancer, and neuroscience, among many others.

The School of Medicine and the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing at UC Davis are also collaborating on a new Healthy Aging Initiative to provide wrap-around care for older adults, and new education and clinical trial opportunities.

As the UC Davis School of Medicine embarks on its next 50 years, I am grateful for the dedication and partnership of our many collaborators as we strive to educate the next generation of physicians and transform health through ground-breaking research and care innovations.