SPOKANE — Spokane will have a four-year medical program with or without the help of the University of Washington, according to Washington State University president Elson Floyd.
The Spokesman-Review reported Tuesday that Floyd is disappointed that fewer second-year medical students are enrolled at WSU’s budding Spokane campus than expected. He blamed UW for failing to recruit more students.
WSU Spokane houses a branch of UW’s WWAMI program, which provides doctor training for Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho.
WSU had expected to host 20 second-year students this year, but Floyd says UW decided only 17 students could attend WSU Spokane.
“We want UW as a partner with us, but if they won’t, this is important enough to us that we’re going to have to plow our own way,” Floyd said Monday.
But University of Washington president Michael Young said going it alone would be difficult for WSU.
“That’s a multimillion-dollar task,” Young said. “They’d be very low-rated for a long time. It would take a lot of time before they’d be able to attract quality students. I’d be surprised if Washington wanted to use its resources that way.”
The WWAMI program enrolls first-year medical school students across the five-state area. Students typically return to UW Medical School in Seattle for their second year of instruction. But starting this fall, students can attend WSU Spokane for that year.
WSU had expected to host 20 second-year students, but “UW decided only 17 students could attend WSU Spokane,” Floyd said. Only students in Washington and a few in Idaho were asked if they wanted to attend WSU Spokane, not students from any other states, he said.
For WSU to separate its program from UW, it would take the approval of state and federal lawmakers and accreditation by a governing board. The university would also need to work with the federal government to fund medical residency spots.
Floyd said WSU administrators have talked with federal and state officials and have had good reception.
His ultimate goal is to fill the new health sciences building under construction on WSU’s Spokane campus, which is designed as a training ground for 80 to 120 medical students. The state-of-art facility cost $60 million, half of which was funded by the state. WSU is moving its School of Pharmacy into the building from the Pullman campus and recruiting biomedical researchers into its lab space.
“We are absolutely committed to growing that program in Spokane,” said Dr. Paul Ramsey, CEO of UW Medicine and dean of the UW School of Medicine. “As health care professionals we are committed to the quality, growth and partnership with WSU and the Spokane community. We’ve been a partner for 40 years, and it’s our plan to be a partner for the next 40 years.”
Floyd said his preference is to offer full four-year medical education in Spokane in collaboration with UW. If that doesn’t work, however, “The bottom line is Spokane deserves a school of medicine.”