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Analysis

Founding Dean Selected for New KGI School of Medicine in California

By Christopher Cheney  
   August 27, 2019

J. Mario Molina, MD, former chief executive of Molina Healthcare, has been picked to lead the new medical school in Claremont, California.

The Claremont, California-based Keck Graduate Institute (KGI) has selected the former president and CEO of Molina Healthcare to serve as the first dean of the KGI School of Medicine.

One of the top missions of the new medical school is to address the shortage of primary care physicians in Southern California. Nationwide, there is expected to be a shortage of 122,000 physicians by 2032, the Association of American Medical Colleges reported earlier this year.  

KGI announced the selection of J. Mario Molina, MD, as the founding dean of the KGI School of Medicine today. Molina was reportedly forced to resign as president and CEO of Long Beach, California-based Molina Healthcare in December 2017 after the health plan posted disappointing financial results.

Molina is the son of C. David Molina, the late founder of Molina Healthcare. He became president and CEO of Molina Healthcare in 1996. He earned his medical degree from the University of Southern California, then completed an internship and residency in internal medicine at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.

Molina told HealthLeaders that there is a pressing need to open a new medical school in California.  

"Many physicians will retire in the next decade just as the wave of baby boomers drives the demand for physician services ever higher. The truth is, the pipeline of physicians coming out of medical schools has not kept up with the growth of the population or the demand for medical care. California will be especially hard hit. About one-third of physicians in California are over the age of 60, so as they retire California will need to replace them. We know that 70 percent of physicians who receive their education in California stay here," Molina said.

Accreditation crucial step for new medical school
 

The top priority in the formation of the new medical school is receiving accreditation from the Liaison Committee on Medical Education, Molina said.

"Accreditation is an arduous process—we will approach it respectfully. In the first two years, the key activities focus on fundraising, making key personnel hires, curriculum development, and building community partnerships. Once we receive initial applicant status, we will work hard to advance to candidate status, and then continue working to satisfy requirements until we are accredited," he said.

The KGI School of Medicine will seek to build partnerships and strong working relationships with nearby institutions of higher learning, Molina said.

"We want to make use of the existing resources of the Claremont schools. Keck Graduate Institute contributes world-class science and technology, as well as a School of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, while Claremont Graduate University already brings economics, healthcare policy, public health, and a renowned business school. Finally, Harvey Mudd College is one of the finest engineering schools in the nation," he said.

The new medical school will capitalize on geographic and demographic advantages, Molina said.

"Claremont is located somewhat in the middle of Los Angeles, San Bernardino, and Riverside counties, a metropolitan area of over 17 million people, second only to New York in population. California is home to more Latinos and Asians than any other state. We have a large and diverse population to draw from. The campus itself has new buildings and plenty of room to grow," he said.

Approaches to medical education
 

The KGI School of Medicine will take several approaches to medical education that should distinguish the institution from other medical colleges, Molina said.

"Today, medicine is delivered by teams of healthcare professionals, and physicians need to learn how to work in teams. Teamwork is something that KGI is already skilled at teaching. We want to flip the classroom around, producing fewer lectures and more work in small groups. Our students will work together in teams to solve problems—similar to how they will function when they enter practice," he said.

The new medical school's curriculum will acknowledge the significance of social determinants of health, Molina said. "The old model of healthcare focused on disease. We now understand that social and cultural factors are just as important in establishing good health. A new curriculum needs to incorporate this knowledge so that physicians have a better understanding of their patients and the challenges that they face in maintaining health."

Graduates will be able to apply the latest advances in science at the bedside, he said. "Our graduates will have the skills to pursue the practical application of new scientific information and technology and apply them to patient care."

The new medical school also will teach students about the business and economics of healthcare, Molina said. "Medical schools rarely include anything about the business of medicine in the curriculum. Modern physicians need to understand the economics of healthcare and the role they can play in either driving up costs or making healthcare more affordable."

Christopher Cheney is the senior clinical care​ editor at HealthLeaders.


KEY TAKEAWAYS

In 2017, J. Mario Molina resigned as president and CEO of Molina Healthcare after the health plan reportedly posted weak financial results.

In addition to medical school accreditation, Molina initially plans to focus on fundraising, curriculum development, personnel hires, and community partnerships.

Distinguishing characteristics of the new medical school include teaching students about the economics and business aspects of U.S. medicine.


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