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Thursday, July 9, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Students in WSU medical school’s inaugural class all hail from Washington

UPDATED: Mon., May 8, 2017

The students accepted into Washington State University’s new Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine are all from Washington.

That was a strategic decision, because new doctors often end up practicing in the state where they did their training, said Dr. John Tomkowiak, dean of the medical school.

For at least the first few years, WSU’s medical school expects to admit only Washington residents, though some exceptions might be made for students from border communities in Oregon and Idaho, he said.

The new medical school is focused on training doctors for rural and family practices in the state’s underserved communities. The 60 students in the inaugural class start their studies this fall.

The students are a diverse group, picked for their leadership, teamwork and entrepreneurial mindset as well as their grades and test scores, Tomkowiak said.

Some of the students have already run small businesses. Others have worked overseas.

“I think there are opportunities for us to redefine the role of the health care team,” Tomkowiak said. “We’re planning for the physician of the future.”

Tomkowiak was one of the speakers Monday at the Association of Washington Business’ meeting at the Davenport Hotel.

He spoke on a panel with Dr. Suzanne Allen, a vice dean for the University of Washington’s School of Medicine, which recently expanded its presence in Spokane through a partnership with Gonzaga University.

Both speakers talked about the shortage of health care providers in rural areas and the challenges they face, including serving populations with higher rates of mental illness and drug abuse.

With doctors retiring and population growth, Washington is expected to face a shortage of 4,200 physicians by 2030. The shortages will be especially acute in rural areas.

WSU’s College of Medicine sees an expanding role in telemedicine to address the shortage of health care professionals, Tomkowiak said. Students will also be trained to work as part of interdisciplinary health care teams addressing mental as well as physical health.

“Being the new school, we’re perfectly poised to figure out new models of care,” Tomkowiak said.

WSU’s medical school won its preliminary accreditation last fall. In addition to Spokane, the medical school will train students at WSU campuses in Vancouver, the Tri-Cities and Everett.

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