SPOKANE — Walking into the Washington State University’s newly renovated College of Medicine building, second-year medical student Cari Coles was “awestruck” she would be studying there in just a few weeks.
The new facilities are quite a turnaround for students like Coles, who had been studying for their medical degrees in “just a quarter of the space” last year.
The three-story WSU Medicine Building is located on the northeast part of the campus and has been under renovation for over a year. Ready for Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine students this fall semester, the newly renovated building includes a new student center, testing rooms, classrooms and faculty offices. The new facility also will expand the educational capacity for WSU’s College of Nursing and College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, also housed on the Spokane campus.
WSU Spokane Chancellor Daryll DeWald pointed to the School of Medicine as a regional hub that will fill a needed gap of educating doctors to stay in Washington and serve Washingtonians, especially in rural areas of the state. He said the new building was “just another step in our growth as a Health Sciences Campus and system” toward that goal.
“This is about community, it’s about collaboration,” DeWald said. “It’s about what we do together. This is about all of us and what we can do together. We’re narrowing the gap in so many ways, but we have a lot of hard work in the future. We are attempting to ensure the state’s future health care professionals are simply the best.”
The renovation marks a major step to WSU’s satellite campus in Spokane. For about 40 years until 2015, WSU had partnered with the University of Washington to teach medical students in Spokane. But for the better part of a decade, WSU has opted to be on their own through the creation of their own medical school.
First opening in 2017, the School of Medicine received full accreditation last year and graduated its first set of 60 physicians in 2021. UW is now a competitor to WSU — having partnered with Gonzaga University last year to open its own Spokane medical school building last year.
The newly opened WSU Medicine Building was last used by Eastern Washington University until they moved in 2021. Formerly known as the Phase One Building, the 113,000-square-foot structure was one of the first buildings constructed on WSU Spokane’s campus when it was built in 1991.
Renovations to the building were primarily funded from $15.5 million awarded to it through the state Legislature and an additional $1.5 million raised through philanthropic donations. These donations include $500,000 from the Cowles family, $500,000 from Scott and Linda Carson, $250,000 from the Spokane Teacher’s Credit Union and several other philanthropic gifts. The Spokesman-Review is owned by the Cowles Co.
Four first-floor classrooms have been combined into two testing centers for College of Medicine students. A second-floor space — once used by WSU as an architectural studio — now serves as the student center including study spaces, a technology bar, 3D printers and kitchen space. The third floor includes workspaces for use by faculty and students.
Interviewed shortly after seeing the building for the first time, Coles called it a “beautiful space” where she could “collaborate with my colleagues in our own space.”
In her first year as a medical student, Coles and other students learned their craft in a much smaller space — forcing many to be “pushed out in other areas on campus,” which impeded how they could work together.
A native of the state, Coles hopes to stay in Washington once she graduates.
“I want to stay in Washington for the rest of my life. This is where I want to work and live. So I chose WSU for the ties to Washington. I didn’t want to go that far. And the mission here is incredible,” she said. “They really care about the students and they really care that we succeed. And I love being in that environment.”