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Tuesday, December 10, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Idaho

Medical school isn’t a magic pill

By Betsy Z. Russell The Spokesman-Review

With all the talk about a possible medical school for Idaho, University of Idaho President Tim White sounded a cautionary note to legislators this week.

“There’s really not a correlation between having a medical school and having the right number of physicians for your state – it’s really rather surprising,” he told lawmakers.

In fact, White noted that today there are 305 graduates of the WWAMI program now practicing as physicians in Idaho, “a rather stunning 70 percent return on investment, compared to a national return rate average for in-state medical schools of 40 percent.”

WWAMI, which stands for Washington-Wyoming- Alaska-Montana-Idaho, is a five-state collaboration that allows UI students to attend med school at the University of Washington; a similar program allows Idaho State University students to go to medical school at the University of Utah, since Idaho lacks its own med school.

WWAMI has had 436 Idaho-sponsored graduates in the 36 years the program has been operating, White said. Currently, 37 percent of Idaho’s family practice physicians are WWAMI grads.

White said the only factor that really correlates to where doctors end up practicing, in the end, is “where they were in their home town as a kid.” So if Idaho wants to attract doctors in the future to its remote, rural communities, he said, “We’d better make darn sure … that we are recruiting students from those communities.”

So, how many lawyers does it take

Here’s a question to ponder as the University of Idaho looks at the future of legal education in the state, now that its College of Law has completed its first century: How many lawyers do we need, anyway?

That question was posed to UI president White by lawmakers, and only partly in jest. Rep. Margaret Henbest, D-Boise, noted that it’s clear when we look at things like the nursing shortage just how many nurses we need. But, she asked, “Do we look at community need for X number of lawyers per year?” Added Chairwoman Maxine Bell, R-Jerome, “That’s a loaded question, Dr. White – how many lawyers do we need? To change a lightbulb, maybe?”

White responded that a full analysis is under way, including projections for the need for lawyers with Idaho’s population growth and business growth in the future, how many lawyers migrate to the state, and the demographics of the state’s current bar, including when many are likely to retire.

As to the big political question of whether the UI law school should remain in Moscow when the growth and concentration of legal work are in Boise, White said studies are still in the works, but he anticipates that “we are going to solidify our footprint in Moscow, and expand our opportunities here in Boise.”

Lots of STARS in the Idaho sky

State Superintendent of Schools Tom Luna has been calling his teacher merit pay plan “iSTARS,” an acronym for Idaho State Teacher Advancement and Recognition System. But Senate President Pro Tem Bob Geddes, who co-chaired a legislative panel with Rep. Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d’Alene, over the summer that looked at teacher pay issues, said he tried to talk Luna out of using the acronym. “We told Luna that he was treading on someone else’s turf,” Geddes said. Idaho already has an ISTARS acronym, Geddes noted. It’s the Idaho Statewide Trial-Court Automated Records System. “He said they would look into it, but they didn’t ever change it,” Geddes said.

There’s also another set of STARs even closer to home for Luna. The state’s motorcycle safety education program is called Skills Training Advantage for Riders, or “Idaho STAR.” That’s right in the state Department of Education, which Luna oversees.

No vets cemetery in North Idaho, after all

The $10 million that Idaho welcomed from the feds last year for a new veterans cemetery in North Idaho ran into a bit of a snag, according to Gov. Butch Otter’s budget director, Wayne Hammon. Hammon told lawmakers that the feds chose a site for the new cemetery – but it’s in Spokane County. With a veterans’ cemetery going in just over the state line in Spokane County, one won’t be approved now in Kootenai County. But Idaho still has the $10 million in federal money for one. So Hammon said they’re looking now to southeastern Idaho, with an eye to using that money to build a veterans cemetery in Bannock, Bingham or Bonneville county.

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