L.A. Care Health Plan is committing $5 million toward the launch of the Keck Graduate Institute School of Medicine in Claremont.

The funds will help with the establishment, accreditation and opening of the KGI School of Medicine, according to the Oct. 5 announcement.

The KGI board gave the school a green light in 2018, with the goal of training physicians to address a looming shortage in the region. 

By early 2019, KGI had raised $5 million from several donors, enough to formally launch the process of establishing the medical school and to recruit former Molina Healthcare Inc. Chief Executive Mario Molina as founding dean. 

Molina stepped down in March, after just seven months on the job, as the Covid-19 pandemic threatened to delay fundraising. Former Kaiser Foundation Health Plan and Hospitals Chief Executive David Lawrence was named as the new dean in March.
No timetable has been set for the school’s opening as that will depend in large part on fundraising efforts. In a 2018 report to potential donors, KGI estimated it would need to raise another $20 million to hire faculty, develop a curriculum and go through the accreditation process. To that end, the L.A. Care Health Plan announcement is a significant milestone. 

KGI, founded in 1997 and a member of the Claremont Colleges, provides graduate education with a focus in biotechnology and healthcare.

Downtown-based L.A. Care, which has more than 2.2 million members in Los Angeles County, calls itself the nation’s largest publicly operated health plan. The nonprofit says the funding commitment is part of its own initiative to address the projected physician shortage in L.A. County.

According to the L.A. Care announcement, Los Angeles County has about 56 primary care physicians per 100,000 residents. The Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least 60 primary care doctors for every 100,000 people, with 80 being preferable to ensure high-quality care.

“The KGI School of Medicine will serve as a pipeline for physicians into the L.A. County safety net,” L.A. Care Chief Executive John Baackes said in the announcement. “Ultimately, our members will greatly benefit from this pipeline of physicians and other providers who are passionate about caring for these communities.”

The KGI School of Medicine aims to address the growing physician shortage by tailoring its admissions process to recruit local students who reflect the community’s demographics. This would include recruiting students from nontraditional premedical programs. 

“Research has shown that who we recruit, where we recruit them from, and how and where we train them is critical in getting doctors to practice care in the communities that need them the most,” Lawrence, the new dean of the planned medical school, said in the announcement.

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