berkeleycampusLisa Aliferis of KQED wrote a nice explainer on the budgetary threat to a niche program that trains California students in both medicine and public health.

Known simply as ‘The Joint Medical Program,’ and founded in 1971, it’s a combined effort between the University of California’s flagship campus in Berkeley, and the prestigious medical school across the bay at the University of California San Francisco.

The program accepts 16 students per year, and half of the graduates over the years reportedly enter primary care fields like Family Medicine or Internal Medicine.

With the national rate of medical school graduates entering primary care fields hovering near 10%, a program that offers dual degrees (such as MPH or MBA on top of the MD) and still churns out practitioners and scientists committed to primary care is noteworthy.

Now the Joint Program is threatened with closure. Due to budget deficits, the university’s Chancellor has decreed that all campus programs must be examined top-to-bottom for savings. Some programs will be cut or consolidated, and the Joint Program is one such program as deemed by the administration of Berkeley’s School of Public Health.

Students and alumni are upset by the program’s threatened closure, and an online petition to save the program has started.

As a primary care physician, it saddens me to think that a program producing dually-degreed doctors interested in systems (public health, organization, business, etc.) beyond ‘just’ direct patient care is under threat. It seems that the Joint Program is valuable and has a successful track record in producing physician leaders.

On the other hand, now in the role of a full time campus administrator facing severe budget cuts, I also empathize with the Berkeley executives who are in a no-win situation.

Aliferis’ article stated the School of Public Health needs to cut $900,000 from its budget — which is why the Joint Program is such a ripe target.

Is there a Silicon Valley donor willing to step in to save (or even grow!) the program?