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UCR's Medical School Dean to Speak at Health Disparities Town Hall

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J.W. Vines Medical Foundation event to address area’s growing healthcare crisis

By Chris Levister –

UC Riverside School of Medicine Founding Dean G. Richard Olds, M.D. will speak about how opening the state's first public medical school in over 40 years will help address growing health disparities among underrepresented minorities in the Inland Empire during a town hall meeting sponsored by the J.W. Vines Jr. Medical Society and Foundation.

“Inland Empire’s Health Disparities: The Urgent Need for Change” Town Hall Meeting will take place Thursday, February 23, from 7:00 p.m. until 9:00 p.m. at California State University San Bernardino – in the Santos Manuel Student Union, Rooms 216/217.

The event is co-sponsored by the African-American Health Institute of San Bernardino County (AAHISBC).

There are continuing disparities in the burden of illness and death experienced by African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders, and American Indians/Alaska Natives, as compared to the U.S. population as a whole, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The CDC says a critical shortage of “culturally sensitive” primary care physicians in rural and minority communities is part of the driving force behind a growing healthcare disparity crisis.

Dr. Olds said the establishment of a medical school at UCR, will address the severe doctor shortage in the Inland Empire. In addition, the medical school which is set to open in 2013, is developing pipeline programs to bring more diversity into the medical profession, transforming the orientation of medical education to emphasize cultural competency, prevention and outcomes, and serving as a catalyst to improve the health of an area of California that fares poorly in several health indicators.

By drawing on UCR's ethnic diversity -- it is ranked among the nation's five most diverse campuses -- Dr. Olds said he intends to deliver a crop of local doctors who are more representative of the Inland Empire's population than those practicing today.

Every doctor needs to be "culturally sensitive," he said. But he said it is also important to have doctors who reflect the people they serve.

The United States spends more than any other nation in the world on health care - in 2007 the nation spent $2.2 trillion. The CDC reports despite consistent increases in spending low-income Americans and racial and ethnic minorities experience disproportionately higher rates of disease, fewer treatment options, and reduced access to care.

Dr. Ancel J. Rogers, M.D., president of the J.W. Vines Foundation says the healthcare needs and demographic changes that are anticipated over the next decade magnify the importance of addressing disparities in health status particularly as California prepares to become the first state to launch the nation’s Affordable Health Care Act plan.

“Eliminating health disparities will require new knowledge about the determinants of disease, causes of health disparities, and effective interventions for prevention and treatment. It will also require improving access to the benefits of society, including quality preventive and treatment services, as well as innovative ways of working in partnership with health care systems, State and local governments, tribal governments, academia, national and communitybased organizations, and communities.”

J.W Vines Medical Society, President Dr. Richard Kotomori, M.D. says with unemployment at all time highs the disparities already apparent among underrepresented minorities will continue to increase.

“It is vital that health reform reduces costs to make health care affordable; protects a pat ient 's choice of doctors, hospitals, and insurance plans; invests in prevention and wellness; and assures quality, affordable health care for all Americans.”

Bringing the UCR School of Medicine to the region is a “healthcare priority”, said Vines physician, and foundation board member, Dr. Michael Nduati, M.D.

“People are dying for a lack of basic healthcare. The Inland Empire region of Riverside and San Bernardino counties is expected to have fewer than half the doctors it needs. Our goal is to educate the public about the critical need for change,” said Dr. Nduati.

The National Medical Association and American Medical Association agree segregation and racism within the medical profession have, and continue to, profoundly impact the African American community. Yet, the complex history of race in the medical profession is rarely acknowledged and often misunderstood.

The town hall meeting encourages the community to discuss the need for closing the growing healthcare gap and the disparities that result from a lack of underrepresented healthcare professionals in the Inland Empire.

“There is an urgent need to act now,” he said. “Bringing a medical school to the region is a community need long past due.”

The J.W. Vines Jr. Medical Society is a component of the Nat ional Medical Association.

“Inland Empire’s Health Disparities: The Urgent Need for Change” is part of an ongoing campaign to raise awareness on health and wel lness issues and address healthcare disparities among underrepresented minorities in the Inland Empire.

The event is free and open to the public.

For more information contact: Sarah Leon at (612) 501-6566 Sarah_leon@aol.com.

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