Opening 2 new medical schools in Montana would stretch physician resources thin, officials say

Officials at the University of Washington School of Medicine's WWAMI program — an acronym for the five states participating in the program — are concerned that plans to build two new medical schools in Montana will overwhelm the state's clinical resources, Kaiser Health News reported July 15. 

States that are part of the WWAMI program — Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho — rely on hundreds of Montana physicians for the hands-on training students need to graduate. Now as Rocky Vista University College of Osteopathic Medicine plans to build a new Montana campus, as well as Touro College and University, WWAMI program officials are worried about both resources and students' learning quality. 

That's because the new medical schools would also rely on the state's physicians for training. 

“The biggest concern that everyone has is around clinical resources,”  said Suzanne Allen, MD, vice dean of academic, rural and regional affairs for UW’s School of Medicine. “At some point, there’s not enough of those clinical resources to go around for everyone to have a good learning experience," she told KHN

The proposed medical schools would train doctors of osteopathic medicine. Such schools are accredited by the Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation, while allopathic medical schools are accredited by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education. However, students, regardless of which type of medical school, study the same curriculum and require the same clinical training, meaning the new programs would still rely on the same pool of Montana physicians. 

"The [Liaison Committee on Medical Education] which accredits allopathic medical schools would never approve two new medical schools in a state of 1 million people with limited clinical teaching opportunities that are largely utilized by Montana WWAMI and the existing residencies," Jay Erickson, MD, assistant dean for regional affairs and rural health, and assistant clinical dean for Montana WWAMI, told the news outlet. 

To read the full KHN story, click here.

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