Idaho legislators agree state needs its own medical school

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After touring southeast Idaho Sept. 27, legislators believe the state would benefit from its own medical school, according to the Idaho State Journal.

Although the state doesn't have its own medical school, the University of Idaho in Moscow is a member of Seattle-based University of Washington School of Medicine's regional medical education program known as WWAMI. The program provides education to students in Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana, and Idaho.

Five states — Alaska, Delaware, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming — currently do not have medical schools to call their own. Idaho has the largest population of the five states.

Although legislators support the University of Washington's WWAMI program, some fear the program will not be able to keep up with Idaho's growing population.

Brent Hill (R), president pro tempore of the Idaho Senate, believes Pocatello-based Idaho State University would be the best location for a medical school. Senator Jim Rice (R) agreed: "It's something we need to do. You can't address a shortage of doctors without looking at creating a medical school."

But other legislators are not as optimistic. "We have the intellectual property, but how are we going to start a medical school if we can't support our existing programs?" said current House Minority Leader John Rusche (D). While a medical school would be beneficial, he cited educational institution cutbacks and claimed a school would be costly in money and resources.

Still other legislators say the solution lies elsewhere. "I think the key is to provide enough residences for doctors to come and stay in the state once they have met their certifications," said Senate Assistant Majority Leader Chuck Winder (R).

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