NEWS | October 22, 2020

UC Davis Health praised for training residents to care for medically underserved

Grant from state agency recognizes successful primary care residency programs


UC Davis Health has been awarded $625,000 from a state agency that encourages health professionals and training institutions to provide care in medically underserved areas.

In this photo taken in 2019, UC Davis TEACH resident Zakir Safdar treats a patient at the Sacramento County Primary Care Center In this photo taken in 2019, UC Davis TEACH resident Zakir Safdar treats a patient at the Sacramento County Primary Care Center

The grant from the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development (OSHPD) provides $375,000 to the general internal medicine residency program and $250,000 to the family medicine residency program. Both are credited with expanding health care access to Californians most in need.

The programs are among 86 primary care residency programs across California that received a total of $35 million in state grants this fall as part of the Song-Brown Healthcare Workforce Training Act.

“In a time of pandemic, economic instability and health care uncertainty, Song-Brown funding supports improved access for underserved and vulnerable populations,” said William Henning, chair of the California Healthcare Workforce Policy Commission. “Song-Brown funds now support almost 730 primary care residency positions annually and has funded 185 new positions since 2017.”

The funding is intended to help build new and existing training programs to help alleviate the shortage of primary care providers in areas where they are most needed — and strive for the health care workforce to resemble the communities they serve.

The Song-Brown program awards its annual grants based on a score that reflects how well training institutions attract and admit trainees from backgrounds underrepresented in medical careers, train residents in medically underserved areas and place graduates in medically underserved areas.

“The award and high score mean that we have been successful in our recruitment, training and placement of graduates to meet these goals over the last five years,” said Craig Keenan, internal medicine residency program director.

“It also means that we can continue to fund our faculty and residency programs’ outstanding efforts to train new primary care doctors who are committed to working in California’s underserved communities,” he said.

UC Davis has had a longstanding commitment to training doctors to work in medically underserved areas, and the synergy between the UC Davis School of Medicine and the primary care residency programs is a major reason  it received the award.

Two innovative primary care education programs in particular — ACE-PC, which puts a group of students through medical school in just three years, and TEACH-MS, for students committed to caring for the urban underserved communities — are closely aligned with the values promoted by OSHPD.

“When you attract committed students, many of whom come from highly underserved areas, and you immerse them in underserved communities early in their training, there is a higher chance that they'll stay and serve those same communities,” said Alicia Gonzalez-Flores, a UC Davis Health internal medicine physician who oversees ACE-PC and TEACH-MS.

It also helps that UC Davis Health has forged valuable partnerships with Kaiser Permanente and the Sacramento County Primary Care Center, a federally qualified health center.

Kaiser Permanente, which has a robust primary care medicine program, allows ACE-PC students to train at its outpatient clinics and hospitals, then return to practice as medical residents. Sacramento County Primary Care Center medical teams include many UC Davis residents and faculty, who care for patients enrolled in Medi-Cal and the Healthy Partners Program or who are uninsured.

“We are grateful for the longstanding partnerships with the Sacramento County Department of Health Services and with Kaiser Permanente, which are pillars in the training of these physicians,” said Tonya Fancher, the UC Davis Health associate dean for workforce innovation and community engagement.

Keenan said the Song-Brown funding is a testament to the strength of UC Davis in meeting its missions of preparing outstanding doctors to meet the needs of diverse communities.

“We are blessed to have absolutely amazing residents and truly committed faculty that have allowed us to create this positive environment,” he said. “But we cannot rest on our laurels, as maintaining any successes will require continued hard work.”