Lisa Brown’s decision to depart as chancellor of Washington State University Spokane is surprising, but she will be leaving behind a significant legacy after more than four years of leadership.
Foremost among her achievements is the state’s second medical school, the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine. She worked closely with the then-WSU president to push through powerful political obstacles to make the dream a reality. Floyd died of colon cancer in 2015.
It’s a bit mind-boggling to think that neither the school’s namesake nor Brown will be on campus this September. Brown will leave in August as the first class of 60 medical school students begins its educational journey.
“There are points in time that just feel like natural transitions, and this feels like one of them,” Brown told The Spokesman-Review.
Brown served in the state Legislature for 20 years, ending up as Senate majority leader. In that role, she was able to steer critical investments to the downtown campus, including funding for two health sciences buildings.
When public funds were scarce, she helped bring about the Spokane Teaching Health Clinic through a partnership with Providence Health Care and the Empire Health Foundation. The consortium has raised the number of local medical residencies from 74 to 99 over the past three years.
The partnership is crucial to not only training the next generation of doctors but to keeping them in Eastern Washington or sending them to rural areas, where there are shortages of physicians. The first medical school class is entirely made up of students with ties to the state for the same reason.
The clinic also will see 35,000 patients a year, most of them low-income.
The rapid growth of the WSU Spokane campus has provided the impetus for other positive developments in the University District, including the University of Washington-Gonzaga University partnership, which has led to expanded medical school enrollment there, and the push to revitalize and upgrade the nearby East Sprague Avenue and east-side downtown areas.
The entire region will feel the economic impact.
Brown is considering a run for Congress in 2018, which would shake up a race that includes a fellow Democrat, Spokane City Council President Ben Stuckart. Republican incumbent Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers has not announced whether she will seek another term.
Replacing Brown will be Dr. Daryll DeWald, who is dean of WSU’s College of Arts and Sciences. He has experience as an administrator and in life sciences research.
DeWald is fairly new to WSU, moving to Pullman in 2011 from Utah State University, where he headed the biology department. WSU President Kirk Schulz is also relatively new, and the medical school dean, Dr. John Tomkowiak, was hired last year.
That team will have a tough act to follow, given the momentum created in large part by the leadership of Lisa Brown.
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