Washington State University will welcome its first class of 60 medical students to the Spokane campus in August.
The University of Washington wants to top that.
Through a partnership with Gonzaga University, UW welcomed a class of 60 first-year and 40 second-year medical students in Spokane last fall. Now UW is asking the Legislature for money to add 20 students per graduating class.
Leaders from Gonzaga and UW said the requested $9.3 million would enable them to accept a class of 80 medical students in Spokane as early as August.
They called it another important step in reducing the region’s physician shortage.
“We know that health care will continue to be an area of need,” said Dr. Suzanne Allen, UW’s vice dean for academic, rural and regional affairs.
UW also has medical students at schools in Idaho, Montana, Alaska and Wyoming. The university previously taught medical students at WSU Pullman and began talks with Gonzaga after WSU in 2015 announced plans to open its own medical school.
Ian Goodhew, UW’s government relations director, said the proposed Spokane medical school budget works out to $48,600 in state funding per student.
“As far as we can tell, that’s the most cost-effective model in the country for a public university,” he said.
UW also is requesting nearly $2 million to expand its Regional Initiatives in Dental Education program, which trains dentists to work in rural areas. The funding would add a second year of curriculum to the program, which is taught at Eastern Washington University.
Both of the requested amounts would last for two years starting in 2017.
Business leaders have said the expansion of health education in Spokane will be an economic boon for the region.
Allen said 52 percent of UW medical school graduates practice in state, while the nationwide return average is 39 percent.
“I think that exposure to the medical community really makes all the difference in terms of them wanting to stay in state,” she said. “From our standpoint, the more time people spend here, the more they’ll want to work here.”
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