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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

In a first, Spokane was top choice for all incoming UW medical students in Spokane

Resident physician Leah Inman performs a medical evaluation of patient Marguerite Bergeron, 93, at the Internal Medicine Residency Spokane clinic. For the first time, the entire incoming class to the University of Washington medical school in Spokane picked the Lilac City over Seattle. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

Spokane has a new milestone to brag about: Medical students are fighting to come here.

For the first time since it began training new doctors here, the University of Washington School of Medicine’s incoming class is populated entirely by students who picked the Lilac City over Seattle.

“It speaks to our students. They’re our best ambassadors,” said Darryl Potyk, chief of medical education for the university in Spokane. “They’re happy, they’re learning, they have good things to say about their experiences.”

UW splits its class between the two cities for the classroom portion of medical school: the year and a half in which students learn anatomy, patient examination and other basic skills before moving on to clinical rotations.

Seattle takes 100 students, and a smaller 60-person class studies in Spokane on the Gonzaga University campus. UW previously taught medical students on the Washington State University health sciences campus, but moved to Gonzaga after WSU began the process to open its own medical school.

The first round of UW students to complete their classroom medical education entirely at Gonzaga finished last December, and spoke highly of the tight-knit student community that formed on campus.

Spokane’s reputation has been changing over the past five or so years, Potyk said, with more students requesting to be placed on the Gonzaga campus. Many students who are assigned to Spokane after saying they’d prefer Seattle end up liking it here.

“When people get told they’re coming to Spokane they don’t want to come to Spokane and when they get here they love it,” Potyk said.

But now, the city’s reputation precedes it. Potyk said the high cost of living in Seattle might be a factor, but cited an increase in students from Eastern Washington who want to stay here and the value of learning in a smaller community as more important considerations.

The incoming class has 21 students from Eastern Washington and 17 from rural areas across the state. Spokane often appeals to those students because of its reputation as a good place to learn rural medicine, Potyk said.

A number of doctors from UW’s graduating class will be returning to Spokane for residencies. Of the 14 who began medical school here and were matched with a residency, eight are returning.

The new UW School of Medicine class will begin orientation in Spokane on Aug. 20.