OLYMPIA – Gov. Jay Inslee downplayed any conflict between the state’s two research universities over operations at the new joint medical school facility in Spokane, saying he wouldn’t even call it a disagreement.
“I’m confident that we can find a way that Huskies and Cougars can work together on this,” Inslee said during a news conference Tuesday.
As to whether the state would build a new four-year medical school in Spokane if the two universities can’t come to an understanding, Inslee said that is “getting a thousand miles ahead of ourselves.”
In an interview Monday with The Spokesman-Review’s editorial board, Washington State University President Elson Floyd said the University of Washington is not sending enough second-year medical students to the new program at the Riverpoint Campus in Spokane that the two are jointly operating. The school will have only 17 students for the 20 slots approved by the Legislature for a pilot program, and Floyd criticized UW for not recruiting enough students to fill the slots.
If UW won’t cooperate, WSU will “plow our own way” and explore setting up its own four-year med school, Floyd said.
UW President Michael Young said only 17 students were interested in the Spokane program. To the suggestion that WSU would set up its own med school, Young said, “Good luck.” Floyd doesn’t understand how a medical school is run, he added.
Inslee said he talked to people about the med school when he was in Spokane over the weekend and “I’m confident in our ability to work through this.”
State Rep. Marcus Riccelli, D-Spokane, whose district includes the Riverpoint campus, said legislators believe the schools need to meet the growing demand for doctors in small cities, towns and rural areas, and for increased medical treatment under federal health care reforms. Whether the Legislature would agree to fund a complete, separate medical school is unknown, he added, but “we need to grow this program one way or the other.”