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UW moving forward with plans to expand WWAMI in Spokane

Sat., May 31, 2014, midnight

The University of Washington is forging ahead to expand medical education in Spokane with or without Washington State University’s support.

UW President Michael Young announced plans Friday to hire a dean and create an “administrative structure” to oversee its five-state medical program at WSU Spokane.

The Eastern Washington program is so unique and robust UW needs someone in Spokane “to make real-time decisions,” Young told The Spokesman-Review editorial board.

Called WWAMI, the program offers a UW medical education at partner universities in Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho.

Ken Roberts, WSU’s interim dean of medical sciences, currently oversees the WWAMI program locally and reports to UW’s dean of medicine, Dr. Paul Ramsey.

WSU Spokane is the only partner university in the five-state region to offer four years of medical education. The goal is to have 80 first-year and 80 second-year med students on the WSU Spokane campus by 2019, up from 20 first-years and 19 second-years now.

“This is really becoming its own medical school and that means having a dean over here for administrative decisions,” Young said.

Friday’s announcement came as a surprise to WSU President Elson Floyd, who met with Young on Thursday.

“This is news to me, but it’s his program,” Floyd said. “If he’s chosen to have a dean in Spokane, that’s his prerogative.”

Nearly two months ago, WSU officials announced plans to establish an independent medical school in Spokane. A feasibility study on that plan is expected to be complete by late June.

At the same time, UW has launched a listening tour, called Next Generation WWAMI, to gain support and partnerships to expand in Spokane and revamp its medical curriculum. That report, headed by former Gov. Dan Evans, should be done in September.

Eastern Washington University President Rodolfo Arévalo said Young had informed him of plans for a bigger administrative operation by UW in Spokane. EWU has expanded its health care programs and its presence on the Riverpoint higher education campus.

While Arévalo is aware of the turmoil in medical education in Spokane, “the community wins either way,” he said.

“It seems to me from listening to both sides, they’re both interested in the same thing,” Arévalo said. “They both agree there needs to be more doctors in Washington.”

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