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Medical Education Plans Take Another Step Forward at UC Merced

May 19, 2010
UC Davis physician named co-director of UC Merced San Joaquin Valley Program in Medical Education

The University of California, Merced, today announced the appointment of Donald M. Hilty, M.D., to the position of co-director of the UC Merced San Joaquin Valley Program in Medical Education. The appointment is the latest step in the university's long-term plan to develop a medical education program leading to an independent medical school.

Hilty will work alongside Frederick J. Meyers, M.D., who was named executive director of medical education and academic planning at UC Merced in fall 2008.

Hilty is a professor of clinical psychiatry and director of the Rural Program in Medical Education (Rural-PRIME) at UC Davis. Rural-PRIME is part of the University of California's “Programs in Medical Education,” which is designed to produce physician leaders who are trained and committed to caring for the state's underserved communities. The UC Davis Rural-PRIME was created specifically to train the best medical students for fulfilling careers in rural communities. UC Irvine, UCLA, UC San Diego and UCSF also implement Programs in Medical Education.

“The appointment of Dr. Hilty represents another step on the pathway to developing an independent medical school at UC Merced,” Chancellor Steve Kang said. “We remain committed to developing a research-based medical school as funding — both public and private — is secured. By educating and retaining the next generation of the state's physicians, UC Merced will play an important role in enhancing the long-term health of the region.”

Hilty will leverage the knowledge and opportunities of the existing UC Davis program to develop a UC Merced San Joaquin Valley PRIME, where students will become knowledgeable about health issues pertinent to the San Joaquin Valley. His expertise is in curriculum planning, underserved populations, mood disorders, and telemedicine used for clinical care and distance education to rural and underserved areas. Like Meyers, Hilty will share his time between UC Merced and UC Davis.

“I am delighted to join UC Merced's medical school planning team,” Hilty said. “I look forward to applying my expertise — particularly in the areas of curricula development, interactive teaching and telemedicine to develop a medical education program at UC Merced.”

Born and raised in rural Ohio in a town with a population of 800, Hilty completed his undergraduate education at Bowling Green State University with a bachelor's degree in biological sciences. After earning his medical degree from the University of Cincinnati's College of Medicine, he completed an internship and a fellowship in psychiatry at the California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco, where he also served as chief resident. He is certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology.

Background on Medical School Planning at UC Merced

Planning for a medical school at UC Merced began before the arrival of undergraduate students at UC Merced in fall 2005. Following is a timeline of the progress to date:

  • In July 2006, UC Merced received a $5 million donation from United Health Foundation to assist in the development of medical education and related health sciences programs.
  • In May 2008, the UC Board of Regents endorsed continued planning for a UC Merced School of Medicine.
  • In fall 2008, UC Merced retained the Washington Advisory Group (WAG) to assist in examining and evaluating the campus' planning efforts to establish a new medical school.
  • In January 2009, the consultants submitted a final report to Chancellor Steve Kang after reviewing background materials and meeting with numerous individuals on campus, at sister campuses and at the UC Office of the President; representatives from potential clinical affiliates in the San Joaquin Valley; academic planning partners at UC Davis and UCSF Fresno; and leaders of the Valley Coalition for UC Merced Medical School.
  • In early February 2009, UC President Mark Yudof endorsed the recommendations by WAG to establish a medical education program leading to an independent medical school at UC Merced.

Planning for a medical education program is ongoing. Meanwhile, UC Merced continues to develop its core academic and research programs, including the Health Sciences Research Institute, Valley Telehealth Project and the Center of Excellence for the Study of Health Disparities in Rural and Ethnic Underserved Populations (funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services).

UC Merced already has existing majors that satisfy medical school preparatory requirements and, importantly, offer students degrees that will immediately prepare them for the workplace. In addition, a minor in public health was recently approved, which will focus on epidemiology, health disparities, biological mechanisms of disease, and statistical analysis.