With all the talk about a possible medical school for Idaho, University of Idaho President Tim White sounded a cautionary note to JFAC today. “There’s really not a correlation between having a medical school and having the right number of physicians for your state – it’s really rather surprising,” he told lawmakers. In fact, White noted that today there are 305 graduates of the WWAMI program now practicing as physicians in Idaho, “a rather stunning 70 percent return on investment, compared to a national return rate average for in-state medical schools of 40 percent.” WWAMI is a medical education program that allows UI students to attend med school at the University of Washington through a multi-state program. WWAMI has had 436 Idaho-sponsored graduates in the 36 years the program has been operating, White said. Currently, 37 percent of Idaho’s family practice physicians are WWAMI grads.
White said the only factor that really correlates to where doctors end up practicing, in the end, is “where they were in their home town as a kid.” So if Idaho wants to attract doctors in the future to its remote, rural communities, he said, “We’d better make darn sure … that we are recruiting students from those communities.”