The University of Washington and Washington State University have received funds to develop the first phase of the WWAMI Classrooms Project — an initiative to develop state-of-the-art “tele-immersion” video-conferencing classrooms on WWAMI campuses across the five-state region that includes Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho.

Funding for the proposal came from Qwest Settlement Funds administered by Washington State’s K-20 Telecommunications Network Board of Directors.

The first phase, which is slated to be completed by July 2007, will be to develop and operate classrooms at each of the WWAMI first-year medical school sites in Washington State, including the UW School of Medicine in Seattle, the WSU Pullman campus, and the proposed future site at WSU Spokane. Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire recently announced that she is
recommending funding for first-year medical and dental education at WSU Spokane in the budget she will present in the 2007 legislative session.

The grant provides close to $900,000 in funding toward the purchase and installation of the high-end equipment needed for these classrooms. Employing leading-edge technology that allows for real-time interactive video teleconferencing for personal interaction among students and faculty, the new classrooms will enhance the education of all Washington WWAMI students.

Tom Norris, vice dean for Academic Affairs, UW School of Medicine, said, “This technology will allow us to do something we haven’t been able to do before, in having top faculty at each campus teach all the students at three locations. They will all benefit from the expertise across the campuses in Washington where we provide first-year medical education, as we leverage instructional expertise and faculty resources.”

“The intensity of interactivity in an integrated medical curriculum delivered in three distant sites will be unparalleled in U.S. medical schools,” said Dennis Dyck, WSU’s associate vice provost for research and WSU Spokane vice chancellor for research. Dyck co-authored the funding proposal with Norris; Andrew Turner, director of WWAMI at WSU Pullman; Cara Towle, director of Telehealth Services, University of Washington; and Louis Fox, associate vice president of Computing and Communications, UW.

“We intend to extend this capacity to other health science disciplines and audiences among these sites in the near future,” Dyck said. “For example, at WSU Spokane we recently hosted an international conference in sleep and human performance; all the students and faculty could have heard the top scholars in the world speaking from Spokane.”

Future sites to be added to the network include WWAMI campuses at the University of Alaska (Anchorage), Montana State University (Bozeman), University of Wyoming (Laramie) and the University of Idaho (Moscow).

On the WSU Spokane campus, the WWAMI classroom will be located on the lower level of the newly opened Academic Center. At WSU Pullman, the classroom will be in Morrill Hall; at the UW, it is housed in the Magnuson Health Sciences Center. WSU and UW are making improvements from their minor capital works budgets to prepare the classrooms. The system utilizes existing state information technology infrastructure, the K-20 Network, to connect the campuses.

About WWAMI
WWAMI is an enduring partnership between the University of Washington School of Medicine and the states of Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho, established in 1972. The WWAMI program’s purpose is to provide access to publicly supported medical education across the five-state region.

The UW School of Medicine is the top-ranked school in the nation for primary care. Approximately 61 percent of WWAMI graduates return to practice in the states where they first studied medicine, compared with a national average of 40 percent.

About WSU Health Sciences
WSU was one of the original WWAMI partners. At WSU Pullman, students learn in a class of only 38 students, receiving individual attention from world-class faculty and seasoned physicians, and building close relationships with their peers.

WSU Spokane is home to WSU’s systemwide Division of Health Sciences, and to professional and graduate studies and research in pharmacy, nursing, health administration, exercise physiology and metabolism, and other health professions and sciences.

Spokane, the largest regional medical center between Seattle and Minneapolis/St. Paul, offers students many opportunities for hands-on professional, clinical and research experience in an urban setting with small-town quality of life.

For additional information, visit:

WSU WWAMI Program: www.wsu.edu/~wwami

UW School of Medicine: www.uwmedicine.org/Education/WWAMI/
WSU Spokane: www.spokane.wsu.edu