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Med school coming to Spokane ASAP, group told Wednesday

Wed., Oct. 14, 2009, 6:06 p.m.

University of Washington President Mark Emmert said Spokane will have a four-year medical school “as soon as possible,” but told the annual meeting of Greater Spokane Incorporated the state’s budget constraints are a problem.

Although first-year students of the university’s School of Medicine have studied in Spokane for two years, the financial and organizational resources are not yet in place to support a four-year program, he said.

The goal, Emmert said, is a curriculum that takes the best from the Seattle campus, and adds innovations like simulators that enable students to practice surgeries without touching a human body.

“Spokane would be a great site for developing those tools,” he said.

Washington State University President Elson Floyd, who was paired with Emmert in a “fireside chat” — sans fire — said the universities want to build a program around Spokane’s Riverpoint Campus and medical centers.

A market study to determine how many students Spokane could accommodate will begin soon, he said, noting that the Legislature appropriated $4.3 million for preliminary design work on a bio-medical/health sciences building that would house the program.

GSI President Rich Hadley said 80 to 120 students might enroll annually, depending on the cost of creating a second-year curriculum to advance students to third- and fourth-year clerkships. Officials will meet early next to refine numbers that can be presented to the Legislature, he said.

Floyd said not just medicine, but much else taught at WSU is a response to a bio-revolution that is transforming society the way agricultural, manufacturing and information revolutions did in earlier decades.

Emmert, brandishing an electronic textbook developed in association with Amazon, said university officials thought the device was cutting-edge. The student response was “it’s about time.”

“Keeping up with them is a challenge,” he said.

But, added Floyd, keeping up with them also preoccupies dynamic companies and communities. Leading corporations follow talent, not the other way around, he said.

Outgoing GSI Chairman Betsy Cowles said connecting with those companies will raise Spokane’s global profile, and increase the attention the world pays.

Cowles, who also chairs Cowles Co., parent of The Spokesman-Review, suggested community leaders looking to the future follow the advice she got from a professional driver coaching her around the track at Spokane Raceway Park.

“Keep your eyes up, and use the whole track,” she said.

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