USC is in. UCLA is out. A nationally regarded doctor-training program at the Ventura County Medical Center is changing dance partners after a 47-year relationship with UCLA.
The family medicine residency program, ranked as second best in the nation by the Doximity network of physicians, has affiliated with the Keck School of Medicine of USC as part of a larger, still-developing partnership with the university health system. County health system officials have also announced a pact between its pediatric program and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, also affiliated with Keck and USC.
VCMC’s three-year residency program trains medical school graduates in family medicine and was founded in 1968, making it one of the oldest programs of its kind in the nation. It is consistently ranked as one of the nation’s top programs and currently is behind only Lancaster General Hospital in Pennsylvania.
The affiliation change means the doctors who teach the residents will now receive their academic appointments through Keck and be recognized as USC faculty members.
The change won’t have a large impact on the makeup of the medical school graduates in the residency program. But it will mean more of the students still in medical school who do training rotations at VCMC will come from Keck School of Medicine and fewer from UCLA in a transition that could take a year to complete.
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County health care leaders said the change is driven by the desire to form a bond stronger with a university hospital. Over the years, fewer of VCMC’s doctors teaching in the residency program were being given faculty status at UCLA. The access to research and the school’s medical library also diminished, said Dr. John Fankhauser, CEO of Ventura County Medical Center.
And while he praised an affiliation with UCLA that began in 19, Fankhauser said the county hospital needed more support.
“We approached them two years ago with what we needed,” he said. “That didn’t come to fruition.”
Representatives at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine didn’t respond to questions about the change in affiliation but said they remain committed to providing medical training in wide-ranging environments.
Fankhauser said USC will provide academic appointments, library resources and other support. He said the agreement does not include any financial payment to the county hospital.
The new partnership will help train Keck School of Medicine’s students in family medicine, said Dr. Jehni Robinson, associate dean for primary care at Keck.
“Through collaboration, we believe that we can accomplish more together in ways that will benefit patients, communities and the next generation of health care clinicians,” she said in a statement.
County officials also announced a new pediatric partnership. Like many area hospitals, Ventura County Medical Center already sends patients who need specialized care to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.
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The new pact with the hospital and its physicians group is designed to bring more specialized services to the Ventura County health system, including pediatric care for gastroenterology and neurology.
Patients who previously were sent to Children’s Hospital to see specialists will receive more of the care in Ventura in plans that will be implemented in phases, said Barry Zimmerman, director of the Ventura County Health Care Agency. He said it’s possible some doctors at the Los Angeles hospital could be assigned to spend a month in Ventura County.
Zimmerman said the partnerships with Keck Medicine of USC are expected to grow and could include a stronger bond with the university health system’s transplant program and other specialty services.
More than two years ago, the county health system engaged in unsuccessful talks with the private Dignity Health System over a possible partnership in which Dignity would lease and manage the Ventura hospital. The talks with Keck are much different and don’t involve management of the county system or any financial contributions from the USC health system, Zimmerman said.
“Not even close,” he said, adding the goal is to build relationships that provide more access to care in the county. “The whole idea is to build a partnership where there is seamless service.”
Tom Kisken covers health care and other news for the Ventura County Star. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 805-437-0255.
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