Establishment of a local medical school program had been a long-standing interest in the San Joaquin Valley, where a shortage of physicians, special needs in rural health services, and limited access to continuing professional education were chronic problems. After several earlier attempts to attract a medical school to the Valley, interest and effort revived when a 1970 report of the Carnegie Commission of Higher Education and the Nation’s Health identified Fresno as a desirable site for a "Health Science Center."
Under the leadership of Milo E. Rowell, a prominent Fresno attorney, the community gathered support for greater involvement of the University of California in local medical education affairs. Rowell was influential in founding the San Joaquin Valley Health Consortium, an organization dedicated to the betterment of health care in the Valley, with particular focus on health professional education.
The feasibility of a permanent medical education program in the Central Valley was explored in a report prepared under the auspices of the Consortium with the aid of grant funds from the City and County of Fresno. The report was persuasive and resulted in the University’s decision to plan a permanent clinical branch in the Valley, with responsibility assigned to the UCSF campus. In 1975, the California State Legislature gave assurance of continued support of the program, and the Veterans Administration provided a seven-year grant of more than $10 million to support the program. The VA also provided $3.1 million to meet medical building construction costs. With that, UCSF Fresno Medical Education program was inaugurated. Since then, the program has grown in size and scope, and plays an essential role in answering the health care needs of the Central Valley of California.