BY RACHEL LIVINAL
(Editor’s note: The following article is printed with the permission of the Central Valley Journalism Collaborative, a nonprofit newsroom based in Merced.)
After many years of plans and speculation, the University of California Board of Regents recently approved a medical education building set to be built at UC Merced.
According to a UC Merced press release, the four-story building will cost $300 million. College officials say the money will come from general state funds, the campus budget and donor gifts.
Construction for the building is expected to start next year, with completion projected for the fall of 2026.
The project has been on the wish list of university and San Joaquin Valley leaders since the campus opened in 2005.
Keeping in tradition with much of the campus, the medical building is expected to go green, running only on clean energy without the use of natural gas.
The medical education building will house a research institute for health sciences, healthcare-related programs and students from the university’s medical education pathway.
Students from the medical education pathway started their first year at UC Merced this year. The program, SJV PRIME Plus, is in partnership with UCSF in Fresno and is expected to award students their bachelor degree in science, as well as their medical degree at the end of the eight-year term.
Governor Gavin Newsom included $15 million in ongoing funding to support the program in the 2020 state budget.
The approval by the UC Regents was the last step in moving forward with the process to establish the building. In 2021, Newsom visited UC Merced to show his support for the building. At his visit, Newsom said the dream of a medical school at UC Merced has been 20 years in the making.
“UC Merced’s medical school will be the first of its kind for the community, providing local students with opportunities to both learn closer to home and serve the communities they grew up in, while also working to confront the most persistent health challenges facing the Central Valley head-on,” Newsom said during his visit.
The need for a medical school in the area is critical, as there are only 47 primary care physicians for every 100,000 residents in the San Joaquin Valley compared with the statewide average of 60 physicians for every 100,000 residents, according to the California Healthcare Foundation.