Washington State University to open new medical school with rural health focus

Washington State University's board approved a new public medical school in Spokane to help address the physician shortage in the eastern part of the state, according to the Heartland Institute.

Roughly half of Washington's physicians are concentrated near Seattle, where only 29 percent of the state's population lives, according to a report from consulting firm MGT of America. The report indicated WSU is "well positioned" to launch a new medical program, despite objections from University of Washington School of Medicine.

Seattle-based UW School of Medicine argued the state did not need two medical schools — it already operates a satellite program in Spokane for students from Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho, according to Heartland Institute. WSU previously partnered with UW for the WWAMI program, but their partnership dissolved in October, according to KHQ. No new students will be admitted to the program.

"Washington State University has a good argument for building a new medical school: Rural areas can't develop without good medical resources," said Heartland policy advisor John Dale Dunn, MD, JD.

Out of 39 counties statewide, 18 have 10 or fewer physicians serving 10,000 patients, according to the Heartland report. In King County, which includes the Seattle area, the ratio of physicians to patients is nearly four times as high.

The new publicly funded medical school in Spokane is expected to focus on rural primary care, according to Heartland Institute.

State Sen. Michael Baumgartner, R-Spokane, and state Rep. Marcus Riccelli, D-Spokane, proposed legislation to help make the new school possible, which calls for a repeal of the 1917 law requiring UW to conduct all public medical training and requests $2.5 million to fund the new school, according to KHQ.

Meanwhile, Spokane, Wash.-based Gonzaga University announced talks with UW exploring a partnership to continue the WWAMI program.


More articles on medical school programs:

Wayne State reexamines relationship with physician group after CEO departure 

University of Illinois proposes new medical school focused on engineering, tech

Medical school enrollment reaches all-time high, AAMC calls on feds to lift residency cap

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