April 13, 2013 in City

WSU Spokane medical school students sticking around

By The Spokesman-Review
Jesse Tinsley photoBuy this photo

Ken Roberts, second from left, a Washington State University professor of biochemistry, leads a tour of business and community leaders Wednesday through the new Biomedical and Health Sciences Building nearing completion at WSU’s Spokane campus.
(Full-size photo)

Washington State University Spokane will be ready to receive its first group of second-year medical students in the fall, and 15 of the 20 first-year students have decided to stay rather than head to Seattle for instruction.

“That’s an astounding number, and a reflection on how good the medical instruction has been here,” said Doug Nadvornick, communications coordinator for WSU health sciences.

The University of Washington School of Medicine, which provides medical training for five Western states, agreed to a two-year pilot program that gives second-year med students the opportunity to stay in Spokane.

Traditionally, students had to head to UW for their second year of instruction.

Second-year students who chose to return to Spokane in the fall cited a new curriculum, smaller student-to-teacher ratios and a more affordable cost of living as the primary reasons for staying. The luxury of pursuing their studies in a new state-of-the-art facility starting in January doesn’t hurt either.

The new curriculum is called a flipped classroom model, where students prepare the basic material outside of class then discuss clinical applications and cases during class time. The model provides more active learning and fewer lectures.

“I think this learning style has been proven to be more effective for long-term retention. It’s exciting to be part of something so innovative,” said Lauren Benson, a first-year medical student and Spokane native who wants to stay in the area when she becomes a physician.

She added, “With only 20 students total, divided into 2 groups for classes, we have unprecedented access to our faculty. In Seattle, you look forward to 200 students to one teacher. Here our ratio will be 10-to-1.”

Spokane native Danny Olson, another medical student, said he plans to conduct research this summer with a few of the local faculty. He’ll also be a teacher’s assistant in WSU Spokane’s anatomy lab during the fall; four anatomy labs will be located in the basement of the new Biomedical and Health Sciences Building. The building will be near completion by September and will be in use by January.

Although hosting second-year medical students is a pilot program, WSU Spokane officials hope it could become permanent.

Some of that depends on funding and a decision from UW, Nadvornick said.

This week, WSU Spokane officials found out the operation costs for the school are in Washington’s Senate and House budgets.

Success with the flipped classroom model at WSU Spokane could also make a permanent shift more likely, Nadvornick said.

“We are sort of the guinea pigs here.”

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