April 13, 2014 in City

EWU, WSU adjusting offerings to meet health care demand

By The Spokesman-Review

Health care jobs are in high demand, and health reform is ramping up a need for even more professionals, so Spokane-based universities are readjusting their degree programs in response.

Eastern Washington University officials announced last week the creation of a College of Health Science and Public Health. It will be based on the Riverpoint campus and open this fall, enhancing existing programs.

“This new college will evaluate our current programs, promote the development of additional health-related fields of study and expand degree options,” President Rodolfo Arévalo said.

“We’ve been doing some work on where potential growth at the university would be, and in recent years it’s been health sciences,” he said, “in particular, the health sciences and public health. A year ago we started the master’s in public health, and that’s filled up with no recruitment.”

EWU’s news comes less than two weeks after Washington State University Spokane officials said they’re studying whether to try to create the state’s second medical school. While WSU Spokane offers four years of medical education, the program is accredited through the University of Washington School of Medicine.

WSU also has secured federal funding for 18 additional medical residency spots for Eastern Washington by 2016 and a 40,000-square-foot medical clinic at Riverpoint. University officials are expecting funding for a psychiatric residency position and are working on one for pediatric medicine.

In May, the WSU Board of Regents will vote on whether to create a College of Medical Sciences to be based on the Spokane campus. The Faculty Senate already has approved the plan, according to WSU.

“I feel like this community has really laid the foundation here (for health science education),” WSU Spokane Chancellor Lisa Brown said. “It has been piece by piece, and now I think the snowball is really rolling down the hill.”

Health care is one of five industries leading Spokane’s economic recovery, according to the Spokane Area Workforce Development Council. The in-demand jobs are wide-ranging and include medical and dental fields.

EWU’s programs will include communication disorders, dental hygiene, a doctorate in physical therapy, occupational therapy, the new master’s in public health, a health services administration certificate and the Regional Initiatives in Dental Education program.

“I know that every day we do more things in conjunction with WSU and the focus they have in relation to health science,” Arévalo said. “For every doctor or pharmacist WSU produces, we need to produce six or seven professionals to go with them.”

EWU and WSU students will be able to work in the new medical clinic expected to be up and running by January 2016.

It will be a team-based primary care clinic that will give students clinical experience and serve the community at the same time, Brown said.

The new college will cost EWU about $450,000 each year, university officials said. The money will be used to create an academic unit to research disease, for public education and to explore expanding some health sciences programs.

Community outreach and research will be vital components of the new college’s curriculum, said Rex Fuller, university provost and vice president for academic affairs. Graduates of the college “will be uniquely suited to meet the needs of the health care industry and fuel economic development in this growing field.”

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