Mike Dunbar: Merced med school a priority ... for some

01/17/2014 7:26 PM

10/17/2014 9:01 AM

In a conversation over barbecued pork and green curry this week, Adam Gray said that a medical school for UC Merced remains one of his top priorities.

It’s a dream shared by many in the region and one Gray believes he can help us realize – even in the term-limited lifespan of a California assemblyman.

“In 10 years, we should be able to make that happen,” he said.

We think he might have to push a little harder than he expects.

Earlier last week, UC President Janet Napolitano met with the combined editorial boards of the Sacramento and Modesto Bees (OK, we joined by phone) and she was asked how the new med school in Merced was progressing.

Napolitano is an impressive, straightforward, no-nonsense woman. In listening to her, you understand why Arizonans elected her governor and why President Obama tapped her to head the Department of Homeland Security. After only three months on the job, she has acquired a thorough grasp of the issues confronting not only the UC system, but also the companion CSU and community college systems. She sees big pictures and her place in them. She’s moving forward.

But she’s also a politician. That was evident as she deflected that UC Merced med school question.

“We’ve got to get Riverside right first,” she said, noting that UC Riverside’s med school only this year went from a two-year program to four years. In the past, med students spent their first two years on the Riverside campus then their last two years at UCLA. Now, it will be all four at Riverside. “It’s a tremendously complicated undertaking. We know one of the missions is to help California meet its public needs,” she said.

But about that med school in Merced?

“I’m focused on Merced,” said Napolitano. “The build-out of the primarily undergraduate aspect of it. The campus currently houses 6,500 students, and we want to be at 10,000 by 2020 and that means we’ve got to build some labs and classrooms. They’re having biology classes at 9 o’clock at night.”

Putting up more buildings at UC Merced is an excellent idea. But we doubt one of them will house a medical school anytime soon.

Tom Berryhill is confident the California Fair Political Practices Commission is going to exonerate him of charges that he helped the San Joaquin and Stanislaus county GOP central committees launder money being sent to candidates in other races – including his brother Bill – back in 2008. He expects the decision to come down this week.

Happy birthday, Kristin Olsen. The assemblywoman is turning 40 and will throw a party on Feb. 5 to celebrate. Not one to waste a party, she will also kick off her 2014 campaign with the reception. Tickets are $100 or you can be an official “host” for $4,100. Send a check, or a birthday card, to Capital Development Strategies, 1127 11th St. Sacramento. On hand to help her blow out the candles will be California Republican Party Chairman Jim Brulte.

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