Major Sacramento Campus expansion will improve access to health care

University of the Pacific is launching a major expansion of its Sacramento Campus to bring an innovative health care clinic to the community and dramatically expand the physician assistant and nursing programs. 

Two buildings were purchased for the project on 3rd Avenue in the historic Oak Park community. The buildings are only a few blocks from the main Sacramento Campus, which currently houses the School of Health Sciences, McGeorge School of Law and Benerd College.

map depicting current Sacramento campus and expansion

A health care clinic that puts patients first

The Pacific Dental Services Health Care Collaborative will combine dental and medical services for the public in a teaching and learning environment—the first of its kind at a university.

The clinic will be housed in a 30,000-square foot building at 3333 3rd Ave., which is being fully renovated to create a state-of-the art facility.

The collaboration is led by the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry and includes the School of Health Sciences and Thomas J. Long School of Pharmacy. Services will be provided by students training to become dentists, physician assistants, nurses, pharmacists, occupational therapists, nutritionists, social workers and other health care providers.

The interprofessional approach creates an environment that puts the patient at the center to improve outcomes, lower costs and improve the experience for patients and providers.

“If someone comes in for a dental cleaning and we see that they are pre-diabetic or have hypertension, we can connect them with another clinical provider who can help,” said Dugoni School Dean and Vice Provost of the San Francisco Campus Nader Nadershahi. “When you do a referral and the patient leaves, sometimes they cannot access that care or may not make the appointment, which means that chronic disease continues and can have an impact on their life.”

The model also allows students to learn how providers can work together to better serve their patients.

rendering of new clinic

Rendering of Pacific Dental Services Health Care Collaborative

The clinic will have space for 10 medical exam rooms, 30 dental operatories and dedicated rooms for people with intellectual, developmental and acquired disabilities. There also will be classrooms and a simulation clinic for students.

As a health professional shortage area, there is high demand for health care services in the region, especially ambulatory (outpatient) dental surgery.

“We have people commuting from Sacramento to the Dugoni School’s San Francisco clinics for care, and that shouldn't happen. We need to provide better access,” Nadershahi said.

The low-cost services will be provided to approximately 20,000 medical patients and 10,000 dental patients annually.

The project was made possible with a lead gift of $4 million from Stephen and Pamela Thorne. Stephen Thorne is the founder and CEO of Pacific Dental Services and his father and two brothers are alumni of the Dugoni School.

A generous grant from the Delta Dental Community Care Foundation and a gift from long-time Dugoni supporter and Sacramento-area dentist Ken Fat also are supporting the project.

Construction started in May and is expected to be complete by summer 2024.

International Dental Studies expansion

Dental services in the clinic will be provided by students in the Dugoni School’s International Dental Studies program, which prepares internationally trained dentists to practice in the United States.

Currently located on the San Francisco Campus, the program will double with the addition of a new Sacramento-based cohort. The two-year program has space for 30 students each year for a total of 60.

The expansion will allow Pacific to continue to graduate students who bring much needed diversity to the health care workforce.

Physician Assistant expansion

The School of Health Sciences Physician Assistant program will expand its footprint as it moves into a new building at 3308 3rd Ave from its current location on 5th Ave. The program also is requesting approval from the physician assistant accrediting agency to expand to include 45 additional students.

The 22,500-square foot space allows the program to enhance learning opportunities for students with new state-of-the art equipment and expanded simulation space to prepare them for diverse careers.

“This allows us to meet the health care workforce that is so needed in the community,” said School of Health Sciences Dean Nicoleta Bugnariu. “The health care system is understanding more and more how versatile physician assistants are and how many settings they can work in, from outpatient care all the way to operating rooms.”

Job opportunities for physician assistants are expected to increase 33% over the next five years, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Renovations to the building are expected to be complete by January 2024.

Nursing expansion

To meet the growing demand for nurses in California, the School of Health Sciences’ nursing program also will expand.

One of the school’s newest programs, the Entry Level Master of Science in Nursing program, has seen tremendous demand since launching in 2022. There were 500 applications for the inaugural cohort of 40 students.

The program will expand into the location currently occupied by the physician assistants program in addition to its current space on the second floor of the library.

The addition of a clinic and expansion of key health care programs will bring much needed services and providers to the region. 

“This is huge for the community,” Bugnariu said. “This expansion will increase access to affordable care and allow us to provide more outreach in the community that has welcomed us in the Oak Park neighborhood.”