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Medical school ready to grow

UW ready for expansion at WSU Spokane campus

In the span of a decade, Spokane has secured a downtown medical school and could have 160 students studying to become doctors.

The ambitious project at Washington State University Spokane’s Riverpoint campus took millions of state tax dollars along with private funds.

One private fundraising goal to pay for second-year medical training through 2015 has been met, and with state funding already secured to hire faculty to teach the second-year program on an ongoing basis, university officials are making plans to have 80 first-year and 80 second-year medical students enrolled by 2019.

Second-year medical students historically have returned to the University of Washington Medical School in Seattle. Now, Washington has two locations for those students.

WSU Spokane Chancellor Lisa Brown announced the news Wednesday during Greater Spokane Incorporated’s annual meeting.

The business community has been a force in bringing financial support to build the medical program, a project that began more than eight years ago. The campus’s growth has already been positive for the community, business leaders say. Already, the campus adds $350 million annually to the economy, according to one study. The Riverpoint campus will churn $1.6 billion through the regional economy when it is complete.

Brown and Dr. Paul Ramsey, dean of the UW medical school, were keynote speakers for the event.

UW developed the WWAMI program 40 years ago to provide doctor training for five Western states – Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho. Brown has worked closely with Ramsey to create opportunity for medical students in Spokane.

Brown said, “Parents will be able to say to their children they have a real chance of becoming a doctor in their community.”

Although the momentum is strong for the medical program, there are still a few hurdles. WSU must receive accreditation for its second-year medical program, and state funding needs to be secured to create more clerkships throughout the state for third- and fourth-year students.

Brown and Ramsey are planning to make a proposal to state lawmakers during the next session.

“With the funds we are confident we could grow the program,” Ramsey said. “This is an important step, and we want to be thoughtful how we do it.”

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