The Inland Empire Health Plan (IEHP), part of an expanding network of private-public collaborations in support of the mission of the California University of Science and Medicine (CUSM), has committed a $1.2 million annual donation to help eliminate medical school debt for medical students who pledge to serve needy communities in the region upon graduation.
Leaders of IEHP and CUSM, which was founded by Dr. Prem Reddy and the Prime Healthcare Foundation, said the donation is an example of the type of philanthropy that can make an impact on the long-term health of communities while furthering the mission of the medical school: to inspire, motivate and empower students to become excellent and caring physicians, scientists, and leaders. Thirty-five percent of current CUSM medical students are from the Inland Empire, and 50 percent come from low socioeconomic backgrounds. This transformational gift helps eliminate the financial pressure for deserving students who feel it the most.
Seven annual scholarships, part of IEHP’s Healthcare Scholarship Fund, will be given to students who commit to providing primary healthcare to residents in Riverside and San Bernardino counties for five years after graduation. Both counties have been identified as among the areas of the state having the most acute shortage of primary care doctors.
“IEHP’s Healthcare Scholarship Fund is focused on supporting medical students who are committed to serve in the Inland Empire,” said Jarrod McNaughton, CEO of IEHP. “That’s what makes our recipients so unique. They have a heart for the Inland Empire now and we know they will have the heart to care for and serve our members after graduation, too. We commend CUSM for its trailblazing work and commitment to changing lives right here in the Inland Empire.”
The extraordinary gift will assist qualified students in support of the vision of CUSM — addressing the acute shortage of physicians in the Inland Empire through innovative medical education programs, research, and training. The physician shortage is particularly acute in places like San Bernardino County, where there are only 34.5 primary care physicians per 100,000 residents, far below the benchmark of 60 to 80 doctors per 100,000. CUSM is fulfilling its commitment to increase the quality of healthcare available to this region by bringing talented students to this area and inspiring them to give back here or to other underserved areas across the world. The majority of the CUSM class of 2023 (70 percent) is from California. The physician shortage has had very real consequences on the health of residents in underserved communities, forcing many to delay and postpone essential medical care.
“Thank you to IEHP for its visionary leadership in support of CUSM and for recognizing the importance and value of the university’s mission as it transforms healthcare in our communities,” said Kavitha Reddy Bhatia, MD, Founding Vice Chair of the CUSM Board of Trustees. “This generous and
inspirational gift will allow students the opportunity to achieve their dreams, find their purpose and make the world better for others. I am hopeful that others will see IEHP’s generosity, realize the power of scholarships to change lives, and be inspired to do more.”
Dr. Bhatia noted that the collaboration with IEHP is another example of the unique public-private partnership that is at the heart of CUSM and includes the invaluable support of the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors, the City of Colton and CUSM’s teaching hospital, Arrowhead Regional Medical Center.
CUSM, which welcomed its first class of medical students in 2018, currently enrolls 292 Doctor of Medicine (MD) candidates and 60 Master of Biomedical Science candidates. Establishing CUSM in San Bernardino County will ultimately strengthen community healthcare, and philanthropy has the ability to transform CUSM and contribute toward building a shared future with improved healthcare for all.
“CUSM has been extraordinarily successful at finding students who will fulfill the mission of practicing right here in the Inland Empire to improve health outcomes for our neighbors, our friends, our communities,” said Paul Lyons, MD, Dean and President of CUSM. “Half of our class comes from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. Those are the people who can least afford a quarter of a million dollars in educational debt, and you have just changed the entire economic calculus for them.”
The presentation of the first annual scholarship endowment was made by members of IEHP during a ceremony on August 31 at the newly constructed CUSM campus in Colton, adjacent to Arrowhead Regional Medical Center.
“To these seven medical students who are receiving this scholarship, we believe in you and your future, we believe in what you’re going to do for your community, we believe that your gifts are going to be given out for years to come, serving people here in the Inland Empire,” said Karen Hansberger, MD, Chief Medical Officer of IEHP. “This program is not just about providing more physicians to our region, but providing physicians who are passionate about serving those in the communities they grew up in, where they have gone to school and where their families are, because that’s where you tend to be the happiest.”