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Wednesday, August 21, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Opinion >  Guest Opinion

Scott Morris and Patrick Shanahan: Partnership good for medical education, Spokane

By Patrick Shanahan For The Spokesman-Review

If we can’t see a doctor in a timely manner when we’re sick, we suffer. And when communities face a shortage of doctors and health professionals, the entire community suffers.

Throughout our collective histories in both the public and private sectors, we’ve been keenly aware of the benefits – both social and economic – of fostering healthy communities. We’ve seen how communities with strong health care systems are able to attract residents and businesses.

The implementation of the Affordable Care Act, an aging population and a generation of physicians set to retire, coupled with dynamic changes in health care, underscore the timely need to address the growing demand for physicians in our state. This is particularly true for underserved communities in Eastern Washington.

Medical education is transforming rapidly in the Inland Northwest. Health sciences programs are growing through a proposed new Washington State University medical school, Eastern Washington University’s undergraduate and graduate offerings and Regional Initiative for Dental Education (RIDE) and the Community Colleges of Spokane’s health professions programs.

Finding solutions to our most pressing issues in health care requires breaking down traditional barriers in higher education and working together for the benefit of our state and local community. That’s why we’re so pleased that the University of Washington and Gonzaga University have forged a transformational partnership to continue and expand the University of Washington School of Medicine’s No. 1 nationally ranked primary care, family and rural medicine medical education programs that have served the region for 45 years.

The UW-GU partnership aligns with each university’s core mission and values – to prepare students for lives of leadership and service to the community and a commitment to enhancing the economic vitality of Spokane and Eastern Washington. It also builds on the educational excellence of each institution in the health sciences, including UW’s programs that prepare medical doctors, physician assistants and dentists, and GU’s programs in nursing, human physiology and undergraduate sciences. And a parallel Regional Health Initiative will benefit the area by utilizing both universities’ strengths in fostering innovation and entrepreneurship, as well as in engineering and applied sciences.

Together, this partnership will work to increase the number of graduating physicians in Spokane and Eastern Washington. To keep those graduates in our region, we will work closely with hospitals and the medical community to establish more residency opportunities and increase access to health care. We will do so by building on the successful spirit of collaboration and partnership that has been a hallmark of cost-effective, high-quality medical education in Spokane and Eastern Washington.

In addition to the direct and indirect benefits of a strong health care system, this partnership will boost the prosperity and well-being of the Inland Northwest by attracting research opportunities to the region with the potential to turn those research outcomes into products, services, therapies and diagnostics that could lead to new companies and jobs.

As leaders of the two universities’ boards, we’re excited about this opportunity for our faculty, students and staff to work together more closely. And as citizens of Washington, we are eager to see this partnership between UW and GU create healthier, more prosperous communities throughout the Inland Northwest.

Scott Morris, CEO of Avista Corp., is chairman of the board of trustees at Gonzaga University. Patrick Shanahan, senior vice president of airplane programs of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, is chairman of the board of regents at the University of Washington.

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