Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

WSU regents approve pursuit of medical school

Washington State University officials will start taking steps to establish the state’s second medical school and build a new health clinic in Spokane.

The university’s board of regents approved the move unanimously Friday after learning the results of a WSU-sponsored feasibility study that endorsed the school. University leadership is directed to “pursue approval for an independently accredited school of medicine” while maintaining WSU’s commitment to the University of Washington School of Medicine’s WWAMI program and remaining its largest partner.

UW officials have fought the creation of a WSU medical school, arguing that it makes more sense financially to expand WWAMI in Spokane. WWAMI is an acronym for the Western states the program serves.

WSU’s first class of 40 could start as early as fall 2017.

“Our state really needs more doctors,” said Mike Worthy, board chair. “The community-based model we are advocating for, and preparing to move forward with, is fundamentally different than what the University of Washington does in Seattle and what the WWAMI program gives. We see it as a different direction.”

The creation of a new health clinic in the University District will serve as a companion to the health sciences students on the WSU Spokane campus. The regents authorized the sale of $15 million in revenue bonds to build a new facility, which will be located behind The Bookie where the former Pierone warehouse is now.

The Spokane Teaching Health Center is a consortium of Providence, WSU Spokane and the Empire Health Foundation. It’s expected to open in 2016. It will provide a variety of services and will be staffed by medical students, medical residents and other health care professionals.

WSU will use the clinic to practice an emerging trend in health care, a team approach – giving patients access to multiple providers in a single location.

The combination of a community-based medical school and an onsite teaching health clinic put WSU Spokane on the cutting edge of medical education, officials said.

“It’s an absolutely natural evolution that we would seek independent accreditation,” Worthy said. “The data for need is irrefutable. No secret that we are short on doctors.”

He added, it’s WSU’s obligation as a land-grant university to “talk about a solution.”

WSU President Elson S. Floyd called the board’s resolution “an important first step.” He and others will meet with policymakers around the state in advance of the 2015 Washington legislative session.

Rep. Kevin Parker, R-Spokane, acknowledges there’s a need.

“The case is easy to make,” he said. “The challenge is convincing the Legislature to invest in it.”