Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

UCLA: Game Changer!

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on May 10, 2013,0,6976660.story


Coping with change, particularly at UCLA, is an issue dear to my heart. UCLA changed my life, time and time again. College at UCLA was a straight shot. It was not tough to get in; not like today. I did not need high grades or SAT scores to enter this prestigious institution, yet I knew that UCLA opened doors for me, and for many of my high school friends, which would have been out of reach, had the tuition or the threshold for admission been elevated. Over the years, both of those dimensions have limited access, making me frightened for the lack of opportunity to those who do not bloom in high school and/or do not have the resources, or the vision, to sacrifice time for the value of education. Then, there was the UCLA medical school, now called the David Geffen School of Medicine. Again, the opportunity was enormous. The financial price was low, but the time demand were excessive. Now, it is the reverse. Then, there was the UCLA Psychiatry Residency, one of the best in the country. That has remained the same, although the definition of “best” has changed away from multimodal treatment, to a large tilt towards psychopharmacology and neuromodulation treatments. And then, the UCLA Child Psychiatry fellowship, presented another outstanding opportunity. Again, the reputation maintains, but like in adult psychiatry, the tilt leans strongly towards neurobiology, away from the value of the doctor/patient relationship. Now, with this news in the LA Times today, that two prominent UCLA neurobiology researchers are being poached to go to USC, there seems to be another sea change. Private universities are blooming with more money and more ease in administration. The loss to UCLA feels enormous, and yet, I know that the scope of UCLA’s neuroscience is so large, that even with  this major hit, UCLA remains a strong neuroscience powerhouse. Still, I can’t help but feel sad for the institution that trained me, and that , in turn, train others,  is changing, once again. Like the famous football rivalry, the strong team rises and falls, and so, I imagine, that will happen with research, as well.

4 Responses to “UCLA: Game Changer!”

  1. Ashana M said

    Even in my generation, prestigious public colleges like UCLA and Berkeley were absurdly out of reach for the typical high-achieving student. At the same time, the number of opportunities and quality of education they were able to offer seemed out of kilter with the degree of promise you needed to demonstrate to gain entrance. I did not even bother applying, and although my school continues to push students toward public institutions, I persist in trying to steer them toward private colleges. Our public colleges are overburdened and underresourced, and that does not seem likely to change in the foreseeable future. It’s a sad thing.

    • I am not sure that all of the prestigious private colleges are out of reach for the high-achieving students and I am also not sure that our public colleges are overburdened and under resourced. I do think that funding streams have changed, giving private colleges a larger edge for recruiting faculty, and that this results in a change in the power structure of these universities, but I still think that a student can get a fine education at these universities. As with so much of education, a lot still depends on the motivation of the student. Having said that, I have witnessed changes in both the student population and the funding streams, resulting in more subtle changes to the landscape. Thanks.

      • Ashana M said

        I hear quite regularly from students at public colleges that they are unable to enroll in the courses they need to graduate. Five years for a BA is becoming much more common now than it ever was. Community college students especially have a hard time enrolling in the courses they need to transfer. Because UCLA has so many private sources of funding, it may be less noticeable there, but our financial situation in the state has very heavily affected our public colleges generally and it it doesn’t seem to be getting better.

        • Yes, I agree, but I also see that the determined student can make things happen. There is no doubt that the cutbacks have severely limited options for many people to get a good education.

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