Skip to main content

Kaiser Permanente to Open its First Medical School in California

News  |  By Doug Desjardins  
   March 23, 2016

The Kaiser Permanente School of Medicine is scheduled to enroll its first students in 2019. It hopes to attract minority students to better reflect the state's ethnically diverse population.

Kaiser Permanente has chosen Pasadena as the site of its first medical school that it said will open in 2019 and take an unconventional approach to medical training.

Kaiser officials said a groundbreaking for the Kaiser Permanente School of Medicine is scheduled for 2017 and that it plans to have its first class of 40 to 50 students enroll in 2019. There are currently no details on how large the school will be or the cost for tuition.

“We are designing a curriculum focused on providing high-quality, patient-centered care in both traditional and non-traditional settings, with an emphasis on collaboration and teamwork,” said Edward M. Ellison, MD, executive medical director of the Southern California Permanente Medical Group. “Patient engagement, shared decision-making, and evidence-based practice will be the core of the curriculum design.”

When Kaiser first announced plans to open a medical school in December 2015, Kaiser Permanente Chairman and CEO Bernard J. Tyson said that “influencing physician education is based on our belief that new models of care mean we must re-imagine how physicians are trained.” Training is expected to reflect Kaiser’s emphasis on quickly adopting new technologies and improvements in patient care, population health, and preventive health.

Kaiser said it chose Pasadena, a city about 10 miles east of Los Angeles, because of its proximity to the Kaiser Permanente Pasadena Medical Office complex and to Kaiser hospitals in the Los Angeles area where students will have their residencies.

Kaiser said it hopes to attract more minority students to its medical school to better reflect the state’s ethnically diverse population. According to a 2012 California HealthCare Foundation study, only 5% of California physicians are Hispanic even though the state’s population is nearly 40% Hispanic. Kaiser said details on how it plans to recruit a more diverse student population will be released after it appoints a medical school dean.

Gerald Kominski, director of the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, said Kaiser’s decision to open a medical school is likely a “classic example of the buy vs. make decision that firms face every day in the market” and should help produce the kind of physicians Kaiser wants.

“I don’t know if [Kaiser expects] many or most of their graduates to practice in Kaiser eventually,” said Kominski. “But if they do, they can train doctors to value an evidence-based, team approach to practicing medicine and influence their career paths from the beginning of their professional training.”

The new medical school should help the state address an expected shortage of primary care physicians. According to a 2016 report from the California Primary Care Association, the state will need to increase its primary care workforce by 32% by 2030, which will require adding 8,243 primary care physicians to keep pace with demand.

The study estimates that, due to limited capacity at state medical schools, California ranks 43rd in the nation at 17.8 medical school students per 100,000 residents. The study suggested that “an expansion in California medical school capacity could result in a much-needed increase in the physician supply.”


Tagged Under:

Get the latest on healthcare leadership in your inbox.