The medical school partnership between Gonzaga University and the University of Washington is positive news after the tussle over whether Spokane would host two schools.
The answer, announced Wednesday, is yes, and it’s an exciting development after Washington State University decided to go its own way. That marriage, in which WSU played a role in the five-state cooperative known as WWAMI (Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho), broke apart when WSU decided it would be best for the region to have a four-year medical school.
We supported that move, but it did raise concerns about whether UW would pull up stakes in Spokane if it couldn’t find a medical school partner. With that fear allayed, Spokane can look forward to a big increase in medical school students, which will provide a shot in the arm to the local economy.
Health care is already Spokane’s most powerful economic driver, and the growth in medical education and research is expected to have a $1.7 billion economic impact annually and create more than 9,000 jobs, according to a Greater Spokane Inc. assessment.
The sheer increase in medical students is remarkable, considering Spokane landed 20 WWAMI students in 2008, and that was cause for celebration.
This fall, Gonzaga will welcome 60 first-year students and 40 second-year students from the UW School of Medicine. New students will spend their first 18 months on the Bulldog campus. Regular student services, including the recreation center, will be available to them.
UW is lobbying the Legislature to increase the first-year student total to 80.
Meanwhile, WSU says its Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine is on track to achieve accreditation, with the hope of enrolling 60 students in the fall of 2017.
UW President Ana Mari Cauce showed refreshing perspective on Wednesday, when she called the 40-year partnership between UW and WSU “a good run.” WSU Spokane Chancellor Lisa Brown reiterated that her institution’s aspirations “are not contrary” to UW’s.
Behind the medical school battle has always been a shared desire to meet growing demands of Washingtonians and the medical community. There is a looming shortage of primary care physicians – some say it’s already here – and the state is well behind others in producing medical school graduates.
Now it’s up to our community to demonstrate its commitment to the long-term goal of educating future doctors. That means making it a priority issue and lobbying the Legislature.
As Cauce said, “We’re committed to expanding, and it’s up to you to decide how many medical schools we have here.”
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