UC Riverside opens new medical school building – Press Enterprise

UC Riverside Chancellor Kim Wilcox, left, and first-year medical student Rose Bishay playfully cut the ribbon Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2023, during the grand opening of the new School of Medicine Education Building II on campus. (Photo by Watchara Phomicinda, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

The UC Riverside School of Medicine marked the opening of a new building Tuesday, Sept. 26, as the school celebrates its 10th anniversary.

A ribbon cutting and tours welcomed what’s being called Education Building II, which will offer more classrooms for medical students and the opportunity to expand the program conceived to bring more doctors to the Inland Empire, a region that needs them.

“This will allow us in the future to increase our class size, so we’re training more physicians each year,” Elizabeth Morrison-Banks, associate dean for medical education quality, said by phone Tuesday.

Education Building II has 57,000 square feet across five floors. It includes lecture halls, classrooms, offices, study spaces and lounges, a UC Riverside news release states. Classes inside will begin after fall quarter final exams, the release states. The building hosted its first event last week, the 2023 Celebration of Women in Medicine and Science.

The new building allows for a class capacity of 125 students, according to the release.

The extra space was sorely needed, said Rose Bishay, a first-year UCR medical student from Oceanside.

Some classes have been taught in the basement of another building, she said, and exams took up two rooms so that students could sit far enough apart.

Bishay was among those gathered for Tuesday’s ribbon cutting.

“It was fantastic,” she said.

Bishay said she met UCR Chancellor Kim Wilcox before the event, and jokingly asked him when it would be her turn to cut a ribbon. To her surprise, he told her she could do so Tuesday.

“I thought he was just joking,” but after the ribbon was cut once, she said, Wilcox held it out again, and “I got a chance to cut it, too.”

The School of Medicine welcomed its first students in 2013, and was created in part as a response to the continuing physician shortage in Inland Southern California.

Its inaugural class had 50 students. In 2017, 40 of them graduated. Each was matched with their top residency choice, which administrators said is a rarity, and 10 of them chose to do residencies in the Inland Empire.

“It is a high percentage, relatively speaking,” Morrison-Banks said of the school’s graduates to date who have remained in the region to complete their residency or practice medicine.

Of the 68 graduates in 2022, 39% headed to residencies in Southern California.

The 2020 state budget allocated enough money for the school to gradually double its size, from 250 to 500 students, which Education Building II’s additional space will help accommodate.

Today, the school has 364 medical students. Over 60% of its students have ties to the region, and nearly 40% are from communities that are underrepresented in medicine, according to a UCR video.

Bishay, who is Egyptian, said she feels the school is accomplishing its mission to address the lack of diversity in medical care and bring physicians to the Inland Empire.

She mentioned the school’s LACE curriculum, which pairs students with a regional physician for three years, which she said has allowed her to get involved in the patient population and “have a longstanding connection these patients.”

Bishay, who is 20 — she graduated high school and college early, and gained early acceptance to the School of Medicine — is interested in specializing in pediatrics, but said she “can’t say for certain” where her future career will take her.

As the school grows, so does the question of where students will train.

Most medical schools, including several others in the University of California system, have their own medical center. UC Riverside does not, and from the beginning has partnered its students with other medical facilities to complete their educations.

Last year, state Sen. Richard Roth, D-Riverside, lobbied for a UCR teaching hospital to be built in Riverside County. The bill, SB1199, passed the state Senate, but Roth said he stopped its progress after learning the bill wasn’t backed by the UC Office of the President. At the time, spokesperson Ryan King said the office didn’t have a position on the bill. Roth said he would try again to pass the legislation in 2023.

Will UCR’s medical school one day see a medical center rise for its students?

“It’s sounding more promising all the time,” Morrison-Banks said.


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