UW: Expand WWAMI, Increase Eastern WA Residencies

The UW expressed disappointment in WSU’s decision to pursue a separate, independent medical school, calling the report deeply flawed with egregious errors. On Friday, the WSU Board of Regents had unanimously approved the proposal to move forward with the medical school based on this report, which claimed the university was “highly ready” for such an endeavor.

“Many of the key justifications cited for starting, funding, and accrediting a second public medical school in Washington are based upon faulty assumptions, omissions, and erroneous data that draw into question many of the report’s central conclusions. These flaws raise significant concerns about the actual feasibility of a WSU medical school and are important questions that require answers,” according to the UW press release.

The press release details numerous errors in the consultant’s study, including faulty cost per student figures, start-up costs and use of taxpayer dollars. Read the full release here.

Currently, UW operates the only publicly funded medical school for Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho. UW opposes creating a second, separate medical school in the state, and is championing its own “Next Generation Medical Education” proposal to expand the number of students at the existing WWAMI campus in Spokane. The UW hopes to acquire enough funding from the Legislature to quadruple the number of medical students at WWAMI Spokane to 320 students.

WSU supporters claim a new medical school is necessary to solve the dire doctor shortage in Washington State. UW officials argue that the costs of building a new medical school are far higher than increasing enrollment in the existing program. In addition, the greatest predictor of where students will practice is determined not by where they attend medical school, but by the location of their residency after medical school, according to the UW. Residency programs are controlled at the federal level, and have not grown in Washington State in almost 20 years.

The UW warns that increasing the number of medical school seats without residency opportunities will force future doctors to leave the state for residency positions elsewhere. The real solution, UW officials propose, is to work at the federal level to increase residency programs in the state.

UW Regent Orin Smith issued the following statement on Friday, in response to WSU’s Board of Regents vote on the medical school proposal:

“We’re disappointed by WSU’s announcement today to pursue a separate, independent medical school aside from the existing Spokane medical school we’ve worked hard to build together in partnership with the Spokane community.

At a time when fully funding basic education and addressing our mental health crisis loom large, we believe creating a second, $47 million medical school raises many questions and concerns about the highest and best use of limited resources.

Addressing our healthcare disparities in Eastern Washington and growing an innovative, sustainable economy in Spokane demand that we put aside individual institutional ambitions and focus on what is best for our students, the Spokane community and the state. WWAMI, our existing UW-WSU partnership in Spokane, is currently recognized as the most efficient, effective community-based medical education program in the nation, with the potential for $1.6 billion in economic impact for the Spokane region.

The UW remains committed to investing in and growing this partnership with the support of the Spokane community and the Washington state legislature to support sustainable economic development for the region.”