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UW School of Medicine tops U.S. News ranking of best graduate schools for primary care education

UW Medical Center pharmacy manager Christine Meyer puts a tray of 975 doses of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine into an ultra-cold freezer after the vaccine arrived at UW Medicine’s Montlake campus Monday morning. The school has earned a top ranking from U.S. News & World Report for 2022.   (Evan Bush / The Seattle Times)
UW Medical Center pharmacy manager Christine Meyer puts a tray of 975 doses of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine into an ultra-cold freezer after the vaccine arrived at UW Medicine’s Montlake campus Monday morning. The school has earned a top ranking from U.S. News & World Report for 2022.  (Evan Bush / The Seattle Times)

The University of Washington School of Medicine is the No. 1 graduate school in the country for primary care education, according to U.S. News & World Report’s latest annual ranking.

The 2022 edition of the “Best Graduate Schools” ranking also listed UW as the second-best school for family medicine training. The rankings were released at the end of March.

UW was tied with the University of California, San Francisco for No. 2 in last year’s primary care education rankings. The top honor that year went to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The School of Medicine has ranked as the top primary care medical school 26 times since the category was introduced in 1995 and has been one of the top two medical schools for family medicine training for 29 years, according to the university.

“We are very proud to be a top leader in the nation in both primary care and federal research grants,” Dr. Paul G. Ramsey, UW Medicine’s CEO and dean of the UW School of Medicine, said in a statement. “This distinction is a tribute to our faculty, staff, students and trainees who are dedicated to our mission of improving the health of the public through outstanding teaching, research and patient care.”

Part of what makes the programs so successful is the number of students out of UW who choose to go into primary care, said Dr. Darryl Potyk, associate dean and chief for medical education for Eastern Washington in the University of Washington School of Medicine – Gonzaga University Regional Health Partnership.

“Many of our students choose to go into rural settings and also to serve the underserved populations, and I think that’s what bolsters our programs the most,” Potyk said.

The UW School of Medicine has been training medical students in Eastern Washington for 50 years, Potyk said, through the college’s five-state medical education program, WWAMI. The acronym represents the participating states: Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho.

The College of Medicine evolved its presence in Spokane in 2016 through a partnership with Gonzaga University, with UW students studying out of Gonzaga’s Schoenberg Center. There are more than 120 first- and second-year UW Spokane medical students and over 60 MEDEX Northwest Spokane physician assistant students on campus, while Potyk said approximately 40 third- and fourth-year students are training in clinical settings across the region.

Potyk said construction is moving along on the new home for the UW School of Medicine-Gonzaga University Regional Health Partnership on East Spokane Falls Boulevard. The four-story, 80,000-square-foot building, announced in 2019, will house a number of UW School of Medicine programs, as well as Gonzaga’s department of human physiology. Potyk said there will be some co-teaching opportunities as part of “an ongoing deepening” of the UW-Gonzaga relationship.

The new building will allow the UW program to expand, Potyk said. Construction is expected to be complete in June 2022.

“We’ve come to love the Schoenberg Center, but the building was never meant for instructional space,” Potyk said. “Students have shown resilience and their hard-working nature, but it’s really going to be nice to get into a state-of-the-art building that has all of the state-of-the-art technologies.”

Despite the School of Medicine’s track record with the U.S. News rankings, Potyk said “we don’t want to be resting on our laurels.”

Potyk said the School of Medicine, while working to address a shortage in primary care providers, is putting additional focus on alternative modes of care, such as telehealth, and outreach programs.

“As we embed our students in these rural communities, one thing that can’t be neglected is the pipeline for medical education and STEM education,” Potyk said. “The more people we can get from the rural areas into STEM education and potentially health care professions, that could self-perpetuate, because those people will want to go back and serve their communities.”

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