April 22, 2014 in City, Health

Medical school task force convenes

Group discussing future of five-state program
By The Spokesman-Review

Community leaders in Spokane want a medical school based here, but they avoided choosing sides on which university should run it.

That was one impression coming out of the first meeting of a task force convened Monday by the University of Washington.

The task force will consider the future of UW’s five-state medical education system called WWAMI, for Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho.

The developing program – The Next Generation WWAMI plan – is intended to create a “21st-century curriculum” for medical education, to begin in 2015. Instead of first- through fourth-year medical education, students will embark on a “scientific foundation phase” with greater emphasis on clinical care.

The task force heard from WWAMI students, Spokane community leaders – including Eastern Washington University President Rodolfo Arevalo and city of Spokane administrator Theresa Saunders – and university leadership.

Students said they like the variety of access offered through the WWAMI program.

Washington State University Spokane Chancellor Lisa Brown told the panel that a second publicly funded medical school is coming in the next 10 to 20 years, and “I believe it should be in Spokane.”

States are moving in the direction of independent schools, not consolidation, she said, adding that WSU and UW wouldn’t compete for students or research dollars. WSU wants to offer students “two independently accredited medical schools with different education styles,” Brown said.

WSU is awaiting results of a feasibility study on splitting off from the WWAMI system to launch an independent medical school in Spokane.

UW officials have repeatedly said they want to preserve and strengthen the WWAMI program instead, including adding more students in Spokane and retooling the medical curriculum throughout the WWAMI system.

Former Gov. Dan Evans is heading up the task force.

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