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Effort to name medical school after WSU’s Elson Floyd gains steam

Elson Floyd, late president of Washington State University. (File)
Elson Floyd, late president of Washington State University. (File)

OLYMPIA – A campaign to name a new Washington State University medical school in Spokane for WSU’s late President Elson Floyd is gaining support online and in the Legislature.

More than 6,000 people have shown support for the idea on a Facebook page set up for the effort, and Sen. Mike Baumgartner, R-Spokane, said Tuesday morning he may introduce a bill to do just that later this week.

On Tuesday afternoon, a group of House Democrats, including Spokane Reps. Timm Ormsby and Marcus Riccelli said they would sponsor legislation to honor Floyd by naming the school for him.

Floyd was the driving force behind WSU’s effort to start the second state-funded medical school in Washington and a tireless champion of the idea in legislative hearings all year, even as he was battling health problems ultimately revealed as colon cancer.

To pave the way for a WSU medical school, the Legislature had to repeal a 1917 law that gave sole authority for physician education to the University of Washington.

Floyd was an eloquent advocate for changing what he called an antiquated law and expanding the number of family practice and rural doctors for underserved areas of the state.

“That was no easy task and he led the effort at every step,” Riccelli said.

His family has asked that memorial gifts be made to the Elson S. Floyd Founders Fund in lieu of flowers. The fund, established by the university Tuesday, will support the accreditation and operation of the new medical school.

On Monday, a possible glitch arose in WSU’s efforts to start its own medical school when the 2015-17 operating budget announced by House Democrats did not have money for the university to seek the required accreditation.

That money, instead, would only be available if the Legislature passes an “investment package” that pays for additional programs with money generated by closing tax exemptions.

Riccelli said Tuesday he is “absolutely” confident that the final budget will include $2.5 million for WSU to seek accreditation for its medical school.

Previous versions of the House Democratic budget, and the current Senate Republican budget, would provide money for both the WSU medical school and expansion of the UW medical school program in Spokane. The two chambers must agree on a single spending plan for the next two years before the new fiscal year starts on July 1, and the long list of items that are included in the budget are subject to change.

Baumgartner noted that the Legislature still is struggling to pass a budget.

“Elson was probably the best in the state at working in a bipartisan fashion,” Baumgartner said. “Like Elson did in his life, it’s a great opportunity to unite Republicans and Democrats.”

Staff editor Jonathan Brunt contributed to this report.

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