UW, WSU Spokane announce plans for medical education growth

SPOKANE, Wash. – WSU Spokane and the University of Washington School of Medicine  will jointly ask legislators to allocate the money needed to fund 40 new permanent medical education seats in Spokane over a four-year period.

Paul G. Ramsey, M.D., CEO of UW Medicine and Dean of the UW School of Medicine (UWSOM) and WSU Spokane Chancellor Lisa Brown announced that goal Wednesday at the Greater Spokane Incorporated annual meeting at the Spokane Convention Center.

Ramsey says the larger classes would fulfill a very real need for physicians in Northwest communities.

“The Washington WWAMI program turns away many qualified students despite the large unmet need for medical care in many of our communities,” Ramsey said. “The demand for physicians is growing quickly. We need more doctors.”

If the legislature allocates the money necessary to expand medical education, WSU Spokane could host as many as 80 first-year and 80 second-year medical students by the end of this decade.

That would not only mark a large increase in the number of medical students taught in Spokane, it would also enlarge the pool of potential new physicians who would be available to work in eastern and central Washington. That could help ease a physician shortage in Washington, particularly in rural areas.

Ramsey says WWAMI will also have to develop additional teaching relationships with Washington hospitals and clinics to create more clinical learning opportunities before the larger classes reach the clinical part of their training.


Spokane’s medical education history

Spokane’s hospitals have hosted third- and fourth-year medical students since the early 1970s when the UWSOM’s WWAMI (Washington Wyoming Alaska Montana Idaho) medical education program was founded. WSU was an early partner, teaching first-year medical students on its Pullman campus.

In 2008, WSU began teaching classes of 20 first-year WWAMI medical students on its Spokane campus. This fall, WSU Spokane added 19 second-year students as part of a program that is testing a new model of delivering medical education. This is the first time WWAMI second-year students have been trained outside of Seattle.

The growth will continue next fall when WSU will merge its two WWAMI first-year programs; students previously trained in the WSU Pullman program will instead be trained at WSU Spokane. That means Spokane will welcome 40 first-year students, in addition to the group of up to 20 second-year students.

Under the plan announced by Ramsey and Brown, 20 first-year medical student positions would be added to the WWAMI Spokane program in 2015 and an additional 20 positions would be added in 2017. This would result in a total of 80 first-year students per year at WWAMI Spokane. Brown says the university is ready to handle that growth.

“With our new Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Sciences building (scheduled to open in January), WSU Spokane is in good position to house those students,” she said. The building is designed for medical classes as large as 80.

“We’re excited that children in Spokane and eastern Washington can look forward to the possibility of training to become doctors without having to move away from their families,” Brown said.


About WSU Spokane

WSU Spokane is Washington State University’s urban health sciences campus. Located in the heart of the University District near downtown Spokane, WSU Spokane prepares the state’s future generations of physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and other health professionals, and houses world-class research that leads to healthier people and communities. Learn more about WSU’s growing health sciences campus at http://www.spokane.wsu.edu/.


About UW School of Medicine

The UW School of Medicine trains medical students, residents, undergraduate and graduate students in biomedical sciences; physician assistants through the MEDEX program; physical and occupational therapists; and other allied health professionals. The school is widely recognized as one of the nation’s top medical schools and is one of the few in the world that excels at both research and primary care.

For 18 consecutive years, U.S. News & World Report has ranked the school No. 1 nationally in primary-care education. Training programs in family medicine, internal medicine, women’s health, geriatrics, pediatrics and AIDS rank among the nation’s best.

The school is the sole public medical school for Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho (WWAMI) offering education, research collaboration, and clinical and telemedicine support to the region. An international leader in biomedical research, the school consistently ranks first among all public medical schools and second among all medical schools, public and private, in National Institutes of Health grant funding.

The UW School of Medicine is an entity of UW Medicine, which also includes Harborview Medical Center, Northwest Hospital & Medical Center, Valley Medical Center, UW Medical Center, UW Neighborhood Clinics, UW Physicians and Airlift Northwest. Visit www.uwmedicine.org/schoolofmedicine for details.



WWAMI—the five-state regional medical education partnership between the University of Washington School of Medicine and the states of Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho—began in 1971-72. The UW School of Medicine partners with these states and their state universities to train the next generation of physicians for cities and rural areas throughout this five-state region. No other medical school in the nation offers training for such a broad geographic region and no other public medical school in the nation offers training for more than one state.

Through its regional offerings and innovations, WWAMI is a model for other medical schools nationwide in distributed medical education. The WWAMI program has resulted in very high return rates of medical students to their home states to practice medicine. Rural states traditionally have a difficult time attracting physicians to practice but the WWAMI program has expanded the ability of the five participant states to maintain adequate numbers of physicians to care for their populations. WWAMI has been widely cited as a landmark program; as a result of WWAMI, the UW School of Medicine has been ranked No. 1 in the nation for rural health training for 22 consecutive years by U.S. News & World Report rankings of professional schools.