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G. Richard Olds, M.D.

Vice Chancellor, Health Affairs
Dean, School of Medicine
School of Medicine:
Addressing a critical need for more doctors and medical services, UCR has launched California's first new public medical school in more than 40 years. Built on the foundation of the UCR/UCLA Thomas Haider Program in Biomedical Sciences, the new School of Medicine will educate a diverse pool of next-generation physicians and develop research and health care delivery programs to improve the quality of life of medically underserved populations.

Areas of Expertise

Select Honors and Distinctions

  • 2009 Elected a Master of the American College of Physicians
  • Teaching awards at Case Western Reserve University, Brown University and the Medical College of Wisconsin
  • 2000 Gender Equity Award, Case Western Reserve University


Q: What attracted you to UCR and the new medical school?
This position was particularly attractive because the mission of this medical school is considerably broader than the mission of many medical schools and, of course, there is the opportunity to start a new medical school. Any student of health care knows that we are about to undergo a lot of changes in health care in the United States and in our orientation in the education of health care professionals. There is something appealing about starting a school and heading in the right direction from the beginning rather than trying to turn an established school from the direction it has been heading for decades in a new direction. Additionally, because of my own background in international health, the opportunity to improve the health of the community which this medical school will serve I think is a very exciting challenge.

Q: What are the challenges facing health care in the U.S.?
When we look at health care in the United States, there are many positive things. We are undoubtedly considered to have the finest health care in the world. On the other hand, I would argue that we are not a particularly good value. We spend roughly 2-1/2 times more per capita on health care than any other industrialized country and yet we are 19th out of 19 industrialized countries in any measurable health outcome. At our best, we have the most outstanding health care delivery system in the world, but at our worst, we are not even doing a respectable job in preventing disease and in managing in a cost-effective way our health care problems. We are in the process of undergoing a fair amount of change. It’s not just due to the current national health care debate. Really the change in our orientation for health care started some time ago with a focus on health care errors, value in health care and outcomes in health care. We will be judged not only on our successes, but also on our improvement in the health of whole populations. This movement has really been going on for a decade now.

Q: Where is medical education heading in order to meet the needs of health care in the 21st century?
It is somewhat sobering to realize that most of what I learned in medical school more than three decades ago is probably not accurate any more. We have to focus more on creating lifetime learners. That’s a difference in orientation. The way that we teach medical students is changing. Historically, we had large lecture classes because it’s more efficient. But we have learned from adult learning is that people don’t retain the information well from a large lecture. The smaller the groups, the more interactive, and the more associated with actual patient problems, the more likely it is that students will remember that information and use it later when they address similar problems in their own patients. Actually the best way to learn information is to teach it to someone else. So creating environments where people are both learners and educators in our medical schools, in our teaching hospitals and in our clinics is ultimately the direction we need to go.

Q: What advice do you give medical students as they explore career options?
To be in the health care profession, you really have to be interested in helping other people. Once students choose a career in medicine, I advise them to find something that they will enjoy doing for a long time. No doubt physicians work long hours taking care of patients. Within that work environment, find something that you are excited about doing. Unfortunately, too many students today – given their debt burden and given what the realities are for health care reimbursement – are often drawn to professions that create a good lifestyle or have a good financial reimbursement. One thing that I have learned in almost 40 years of being in the health care profession is that the popularity of professions within medicine come and go. Ultimately, find what you really have a passion for and do that as your career. I think that most physicians who follow that pathway are happier.
Richard Olds "To be in the health care profession, you really have to be interested in helping other people."

—G. Richard Olds, M.D.