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UC Davis is Trailblazer in Three-Year Medical School Model

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

A handful of UC Davis students are trailblazers in a new medical school model that has won the approval of Californian Governor Jerry Brown. Brown signed legislation that will allow doctors to practice with three years of medical school instead of four. 

It’s Ngabo Nzigira’s sixth week of medical school, and he’s already interacting with patients.

“So we have the norco, you still taking that?" he asks.

Nzigira is being trained by a doctor at Kaiser Permanente in South Sacramento. Normally he wouldn’t be in a clinic until his third year. In this accelerated program, students can shave sixty thousand dollars off their medical school debt. But Nzigira had hesitations.

“I thought, 'Oh man, you want me to put the intensity and stress that is medical school in four years, you want me to condense it down to three years. I’m not sure about that,'” he says.

0728 PB MedSchool Chart

The UC Davis program is designed for students who know they want to be a primary care physician. It cuts out summer vacations and electives to get them into the field faster.

“There’s a huge problem, a huge shortage of primary care physicians," says Dr. Tonya Fancher who directs the program. 

UC Davis says it’s meant to increase the supply of family doctors under the Affordable Care act.

“It seems like students come into medical school and they’re passionate about patients, passionate about primary care, part of it is the debt that they accrue, and part of it is the models of primary care that they’re exposed to," says Fancher.  

One patient says he’s not concerned about shortened medical school - as long as students meet the same standards as other doctors.

0728 PB MedSchool Exam

 health care

Pauline Bartolone


Pauline Bartolone has been a journalist for more than 15 years, during which she was Capital Public Radio’s healthcare reporter from 2011-2015. Her work has aired frequently on National Public Radio.  Read Full Bio 

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