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Med students will spend second year in Spokane

Fri., March 23, 2012, noon

For the first time starting in 2013, Spokane will offer a second-year program for medical students under the WWAMI training consortium.

The pilot program will start with 20 students in 2013 and a second group of 20 in 2014, according to an announcement Friday by two directors of the program managed by the University of Washington.

WWAMI is a publicly funded program that offers medical training for students in Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho. The states’ first letters give WWAMI its name.

The four-year program now allows students to take the first year in their home state but requires they take second-year courses at the University of Washington in Seattle. Students take third and fourth-year classes across the WWAMI region.

The first group of UW med students to take first-year training in Spokane started in 2008. That first group has just finished its fourth year, with six of them remaining in Spokane to begin residency training, said Ken Roberts, the WWAMI-Spokane director and associate professor of molecular biosciences at Washington State University.

In a time of tight state budgets, the pilot program will be largely funded by contributions from Spokane the and region, said Dr. Paul Ramsey, dean of the UW School of Medicine.

The financial commitment from the community to support courses in 2013 and 2014 comes roughly to $2.3 million, Ramsey said. Of that amount, Empire Health Foundation is committing $850,000, said a WSU spokesman.

Student tuition will cover roughly one-third of the total cost of student training.

Ramsey said he hopes the pilot demonstrates to legislators the value of offering additional clinical and innovative medical training closer to rural communities. In large part, the focus of the WWAMI effort is to provide smaller cities across the region with more and better-trained doctors, he added.

The WWAMI program just completed its 40th year of operation.

“We expect if this pilot program is successful in attracting long-term funding, it will result in much larger number of students who train in Spokane for as few as two and as many as four years,” Ramsey said.

The result, he and Roberts said today, will be more doctors for Eastern Washington.

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