Local students looking to pursue an education in medicine can now apply to an accredited medical school in their own backyard.
UC Riverside officials, students and community leaders today will celebrate the UCR School of Medicine as officially open to prospective students.
The campus received word Tuesday that the Liaison Committee on Medical Education -- the national accrediting body for programs geared to medical degrees in North America -- had given preliminary approval to UCR's proposed courses.
The decision paves the way for the university to begin accepting applications for its charter enrollment of 50 students in the fall of 2013.
"This is momentous ... for Inland Southern California and for UC Riverside," said UCR Chancellor Timothy P. White.
An informal celebration in recognition of the accreditation milestone is planned for 5:30 p.m. at Rivera Plaza, adjacent to Hinderaker Hall.
The LCME withheld accreditation approval in 2011, when it became clear the state would not be making annual funding available to UCR because of California's gaping budget deficit.
However, over the last year, the university has secured tens of millions of dollars in private donations, government grants -- including $20 million from Riverside County -- and UC system appropriations, enabling it to move ahead with opening its doors next fall.
"Working together, the community and the UCR campus simply persevered because expanding access to healthcare is one of the most pressing issues for Inland Southern California," UCR Medical School Dean Dr. Richard Olds said. "This milestone enables us to ... begin expanding and diversifying our region's physician workforce."
Efforts toward establishing a medical school have been ongoing since 2006. The school will be the sixth in the UC system, which hasn't inaugurated a new campus M.D. program since the 1960s.
Riverside County First District Supervisor Bob Buster – who represents Lake Elsinore and Wildomar – has been a big supporter of the medical school. In December 2010, the supervisor presented UC officials with a $100,000 check for the purpose of securing $10 million in state funding and another $10 million from the Kaiser Permanente Foundation.
“The medical school will serve as an important economic and academic cornerstone for Riverside County and the entire region,” Buster said in a released statement. “It will play a pivotal role in helping our region attract and retain quality physicians and healthcare professionals, while creating new jobs and business opportunities for those who live here.”
Prospective students can begin submitting applications for acceptance to the four-year program later this month when the medical school is added to the American Medical College Application Service. --City News Service and Toni McAllister contributed to this report.