OLYMPIA – The proposed medical school in Spokane will submit a 700-page document next month and expects a campus visit from a national committee next summer as part of an aggressive schedule to win accreditation, its new dean told a Senate panel Thursday.
That could lead to a decision next fall on preliminary accreditation for the new Washington State University program and the go-ahead for the first class of medical students recruited for the 2017 school year, John Tomkowiak told the Senate Higher Education Committee.
It is a fast schedule, Vice Dean Ken Roberts acknowledged, and referred to it as “on Elson time”, a nod to the late WSU President Elson Floyd who fought for the new medical school to be set up at the Spokane campus. The school was named for Floyd after his death last spring.
The committee meeting, part of two days of sessions for lawmakers in advance of the 2016 session, was the first chance for most legislators to meet Tomkowiak, who was named founding dean of the medical school last month. But he picked up where Floyd left off, saying the school is on on a fast track, hiring key faculty and forming partnerships with hospitals and clinics in Everett, Vancouver and the Tri-Cites – three other places where WSU has branch campuses – for med students to work while they learn.
WSU is in a better position than most medical schools when they start up, Tomkowiak said, because of facilities on the Spokane campus where nurses, pharmacists, physical therapists and dentists also train, and the university’s existing research programs. Accreditation is never “a slam dunk”, but the current schedule looks like this:
Dec. 1: submit documents and back-up materials, some 700 pages over all, for accreditation.
February 2016: Notification of a visit by the accreditation committee.
Summer 2016: Campus visit by committee to inspect facilities.
October 2016: Consideration of accreditation request, which if approved for preliminary status would allow recruiting of students for first class.
Summer 2017: First class of medical students under preliminary accreditation.
2019: Provisional accreditation as first class of students move into clinical training.
2021: Full accreditation as first class graduates.
The medical school will have several special focuses in its curriculum, in the hopes of attracting students interested in rural and family medicine, Tomkowiak said. It will train future doctors in population health, which focuses on large scale interventions to prevent disease; tele-health, understanding the use and limitations of certain technology in treatments at remote sites; and special skills for rural physicians who sometimes feel they don’t have all the tools available in larger cities, feel isolated and b ecome dissatisfied.