State tobacco tax-funded program awards $39 million to expand California’s health care workforce

November 30, 2021
Area(s) of Interest: Physician Workforce 

Physicians for a Healthy California (PHC) last week announced more than $39 million in CalMedForce awards across the state to support medical training and residency programs and help grow the physician workforce. The full list of awardees can be found on the CalMedForce webpage.

The fourth round of CalMedForce funding, generated by the voter-approved Proposition 56 tobacco tax of 2016 and administered by PHC, supports 209 residency positions in 114 graduate medical education (GME) programs at hospitals and clinics, with an emphasis on those serving medically underserved groups and communities. This cycle marks the largest applicant pool to date, with 125 applications requesting over $99.5 million in funding to support 558 resident positions.

The California Future Health Workforce Commission estimated that California will need 4,700 additional primary care clinicians by 2025 and approximately 4,100 more by 2030 to meet demand. PHC, in partnership with the University of California (UC), established the CalMedForce grant program to help address California’s looming physician shortage by supporting the residency programs where medical school graduates must continue training to obtain a medical license and care for patients independently.

“The popularity of CalMedForce continues to demonstrate the high demand and need for GME opportunities and the program continues to rise to the occasion to meet these needs,” said Lupe Alonzo-Diaz, MPA, PHC president and CEO. “The lack of sufficient residency spots contributes to California’s physician shortage and limits the number of new doctors entering the workforce. With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic impacting life for the foreseeable future, programs like CalMedForce are even more essential to protect access to care for all Californians.”

The UC is the designated recipient of Proposition 56 funding and has contracted with PHC to administer CalMedForce. All accredited residency programs in the state that meet guidelines are eligible to apply for funding. Of this year’s CalMedForce awardees, approximately 17% of GME programs are sponsored by the University.

To date, CalMedForce has allocated over $153 million for 376 awards to 133 GME programs across California to retain and expand GME programs in primary care (family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, and obstetrics and gynecology) and emergency medicine.

“We understand the vital statewide need for this program and the funding it provides to support California’s future physicians,” said Cathryn Nation, MD, Vice President for Health Sciences at UC Office of the President. “The annual, and increasing, demand for funding reflects the importance of this program and its focus on the needs of medically underserved groups and communities.”

“This year’s funding is another crucial step towards combating the ongoing shortage of California residency programs that poses an ongoing challenge for expanding the physician workforce, and improving and ensuring access to care in California,” said Alonso-Diaz.

For more information, visit CalMedForce.org.


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