Plan to close medical school comes under fire in the midst of doc shortage

Plans to close a California medical school program that trains mostly primary care physicians have come under scrutiny as the country faces a doctor shortage,The Mercury News reports.

Because of budget cuts, the University of California Berkeley has proposed closing the Berkeley-UCSF Joint Medical Program, which trains desperately needed primary care doctors, according to the report. The program trains physicians for three years before they begin clinical rotations at the University of California San Francisco.

The university needs to close a $150 million budget deficit but has come under question for targeting the medical school program at a time when California needs more doctors to treat millions of residents newly covered by medical insurance under the Affordable Care Act, the newspaper said.

The Berkeley medical program graduates only 16 students each year but roughly two-thirds of them are in primary care, specializing in family medicine, internal medicine or pediatrics. That's in contrast to many new physicians who choose higher paying specialties.

As the Berkeley program faces possible closure, Kaiser Permanente is moving ahead with its plans to open a new medical school in southern California. That move comes as the nation tries to address a physician shortage, which a recent study predicted will continue over the next decade, with the supply of both primary and non-primary physicians expected to be outstripped by increased demand.

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