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Spokane will get more WSU medical students

PULLMAN – Washington State University intends to shift 20 first-year medical students from the Pullman campus to its growing medical complex in Spokane next year.

The move, announced this week, will double the number of first-year Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho (WWAMI) Regional Medical Education Program students at the Spokane campus. It could also strengthen the university’s long-term plans for a four-year medical school.

WWAMI is a regional program that provides publicly supported medical education to students from the five states.

Earlier this year, WSU President Elson Floyd said Spokane deserves a four-year medical school, either under the auspices of WWAMI or as an independent program.

WSU-Spokane has been expanding its health sciences curriculum for a number of years. The School of Pharmacy, for example, will relocate from Pullman to Spokane once a new $80 million Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences Building is completed this fall.

The facility also has room for 80 to 120 medical students. Shifting all of WSU’s WWAMI instruction to Spokane will give it 40 first-year students; the campus also starts accepting as many as 20 second-year students this year under a pilot program.

WSU spokesman Doug Nadvornick said once the first-year students are consolidated, the next step will be to expand the second-year program to 40 students.

Historically, all WWAMI students throughout the five-state region received their second year of instruction at the University of Washington’s School of Medicine.

The WSU consolidation coincides with an expansion of the University of Idaho’s WWAMI program from 20 to 25 students. It would eventually like to reach 40 students as well although that will require additional state funding.

WWAMI students pay a portion of their tuition costs with their home states picking up the remainder. The intent is to help meet future demand for doctors.

Following their second year of instruction, WWAMI students have the option to do their third- and fourth-year clinical training throughout the five-state region. Shifting the Pullman students to Spokane may decrease the likelihood they will return to this area for clinical training, but Nadvornick said the growth in Idaho’s WWAMI program should pick up any slack.

“With the expansion (at UI), this will open up opportunities for the Idaho students,” he said.

Interim UI President Don Burnett was supportive of the move.

“Both universities will continue their long-standing relationship with the University of Washington, providing exceptionally high-quality medical education through a remarkably cost-effective arrangement,” he said.