SPOKANE – Medical education in Spokane should expand to meet the growing demand for physicians in eastern and central Washington, according to a study prepared by representatives of WSU, the University of Washington, the Spokane County Medical Society, Greater Spokane Incorporated, area hospitals, and other businesses and health care providers.

Expansion of the medical education program based at the Riverpoint Campus in Spokane – part of the University of Washington School of Medicine’s regional WWAMI program – could help address a critical lack of physicians in rural and eastern Washington. In addition, the faculty research associated with such an expansion could provide economic return and support employment of workers with a wide range of skills.

The committee’s recommendations include expansion of medical education in Spokane to produce 80-120 physicians per year. The report notes that a large number of Washington residents attend medical school outside the state and that expansion of the medical program in Spokane would increase the opportunities of this group to practice in Washington.

Spokane has students in years one, three and four of the four-year medical program. Students who begin their studies at WSU Spokane or WSU Pullman spend their second year in Seattle and then can complete their required and elective clerkships throughout the five-state WWAMI region.

Expanding the number of medical students taught in eastern Washington would require several elements:
* Adding the second year of the WWAMI medical education program to the Spokane site. 
* Increasing the number of medical students enrolled in the program based at WSU Spokane.
* Increasing the number of required and elective clinical clerkships in eastern and central Washington.
 
Students are required to complete rotations in family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, surgery, psychiatry, obstetrics and gynecology, emergency medicine, chronic care and neurology, as well as electives in different specialty areas.
 
Increasing graduate medical education – also known as residency programs – for advanced specialty training required of physicians after completing medical school is a critical element of any expansion. The location of advanced training has at least as strong an impact on physicians’ choice of a practice location as medical school training location.
 
 Therefore, opening residency programs in needed specialties and expansion of existing programs is an important step for increasing numbers of physicians in eastern and central Washington.

For the medical school class that will begin its studies in fall 2010, 4,459 applications were received from the five WWAMI states and beyond. Of these, 216 will be selected to study at the seven WWAMI first-year sites, with 140 in Washington. In the Inland Northwest, the WSU Spokane WWAMI program has 20 seats; another 20 students study at WSU Pullman and 20 Idaho students study at the University of Idaho in a joint Pullman/Moscow program.

The report was submitted to Paul Ramsey, dean of the UW School of Medicine, and Warwick Bayly, provost for WSU. Next steps recommended in the report include planning for the second year and for expansion of clerkships and graduate medical education programs, and preparing a financial analysis of resources required for expansion to four years of medical education in Spokane.

Expansion of health sciences would require additional facilities. WSU has requested $3.5 million from the state legislature to expand the scope of the Biomedical and Health Sciences Building in design for the Riverpoint Campus. This additional funding would enable designers to enlarge the plan to accommodate enhanced medical education and research and to support growth in other health professions programs such as the WSU College of Pharmacy.