published on April 8, 2016 - 10:30 PM
Written by The Business Journal Staff

Michael W. Peterson, M.D.

Valley Medical Foundation Professor of Medicine, UCSF Fresno Chief of Medicine, UCSF Vice-Chair of Medicine, and UCSF Fresno Associate Dean

UCSF Fresno Medical Education Program

What we do: We are the Central Valley arm of the UCSF School of Medicine, providing medical education, research, clinical care and community engagement around health and wellness for the Central Valley.
Education: BA, University of Minnesota, 1973; MD, University of Minnesota, 1979; Residency and Chief Residency at the University of Wisconsin, 1979-1983; and Fellowship in Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at the University of Iowa, 1983-1986.
Age: 64

Family: Wife Barbara, sons Nicholas and Brandon, and grandsons James and William.

How did you get your start in the health care industry, Michael?
From a very young age, I knew I wanted to be a physician. I was inspired as a child by our general practitioner physician and just never let go of the dream. I was only the second member of my family to graduate from college and the first to obtain an advanced degree.

What made you decide to focus on medical education, Michael?
As I went through my training and early career in medicine, I found that one of the things that I enjoyed most was watching young physicians develop and helping them along the way. It gave me great satisfaction to see a student progress from a true novice and become one of my colleagues. That is probably what motivated me the most to remain in medical education.

How have you seen the UCSF Fresno program grow since you came on board in 2002, Michael?
The last 14 years have been a time of great growth and change in the program.  During this time, the former Associate Dean, Dr. Joan Voris, led the important transition from University Medical Center to the Community Regional Medical Center (CRMC) campus and opened the UCSF Fresno Center for Medical Education and Research. With the help of two important sponsoring hospitals, CRMC and VA Central California Health Care System (VACCHCS), we have expanded all of our residencies, started an orthopaedics residency and added many subspecialty fellowships, including minimally invasive surgery, acute care surgery, cardiology, gastroenterology, and pulmonary and critical care medicine among others. Our newest fellowship, which is approved to start in July 2016, is adult hematology and oncology. We have also seen growth in our clinical research enterprise, including opening the Center for Clinical Research at the UCSF Fresno Center.  Finally, working together with UCSF, UC Merced and UC Davis, we helped establish the San Joaquin Valley Program in Medical Education, a track in the UC Davis Medical School that recruits students from disadvantaged backgrounds and those with connections in the Central Valley who then spend their clinical training time at UCSF Fresno.

You have served as interim associate dean at UCSF Fresno since last year and were recently named to the permanent position. What are some of the changes you hope to bring to the program through your leadership, Michael?
On the administrative side, we will be adding several new senior faculty leadership positions at the Assistant Dean level that will enhance our strategic goals for the program. Within education, I want to grow both the undergraduate medical education program with an increase in students participating in the San Joaquin Valley PRIME and increasing their retention in the Valley. In addition, I want to grow the breadth and depth in the Graduate Medical Education programs with expansion of the residencies and fellowships. We are attracting high quality candidates into our training programs, and I hope to assist our successful program directors in expanding these numbers. On the clinical service line, I want to see us develop and test innovative models for health care delivery and preventive services for the citizens of our region including community partnerships, developing collaborative models around medical homes, and expanding the use of telemedicine for increasing access to specialists and subspecialists. In addition, I want to see us continue to recruit unique talents into the community health care workforce. Our goal is to work with other health care providers and health care systems in the region to deliver integrated care networks so patients do not have to leave the Valley for the best health care.
The health care industry has changed rapidly over the last few years as health insurance has become more accessible. Has this led to increased competition among local health care groups?
I think, if anything, the changes are strongly encouraging better integration among health care providers. The impending changes in reimbursement models and accountability between traditional hospitals and physicians will help to push us into better integrating and delivering care to the patients. In addition, it encourages integrating other health professionals into teams working with physicians. If done well, this will benefit the region and the patients. It is a model we are helping to prepare our future doctors and students to work in.

What are the some of the key fields of medical study or training necessary for physicians serving the Central Valley population, Michael?
Unfortunately, we suffer from shortages in almost all specialties. However, the biggest public health issues for us are obesity, diabetes, lung disease, trauma, neurological disease and drug abuse. In addition, it is important that our next generation of physicians reflect their communities in ethnic diversity, are prepared to work with diverse populations and understands the important role of physicians in teamwork and in system design. It is critical that physicians see their patients as the population and not just individuals.
Physician recruitment and retention has traditionally been a problem for many local health care groups. What are some of the ways UCSF Fresno is addressing the issue, Michael?
I have actually found over the last 14 years that most candidates find the Fresno area to be a pleasant place to move and in which to work. We have a great quality of life, very affordable community, and we are continuing to grow a supportive and diverse physician community. We continue to have the social and environmental challenges, but the region and communities are working toward solutions.  The best thing we can all do is to create a culture that is positive, works collaboratively to address the issues in our region and welcomes the healthcare talent that moves into our region.

What do you see as the biggest challenge to providing health care in the community, Michael?
By far, it is the limited resources we have to deliver healthcare. About 50 percent of our patients are insured through MediCal, and reimbursement for this program is extremely low. This makes it very difficult for physicians to see many MediCal patients. Consequently, patients use the emergency department for their primary care and wait months to see specialists. This is frustrating both for the patients and for the physicians.
What was your first job and what did you learn from it, Michael?
I worked as a stock clerk in a clothing store while I was in high school. I learned the personal reward of a job well done.

What do you like to do in your spare time, Michael?
I like to visit with my sons and grandsons and travel our wonderful state and region by motorcycle. It gets me into the most interesting small towns and meeting interesting people.

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