SPOKANE – The university’s Board of Regents on Sept. 3 officially designated WSU Spokane as the university’s health sciences campus.
In a proclamation, the regents stated that the campus’ direction includes “a focus and commitment to grow graduate and professional education in the biomedical and health sciences, discover new knowledge through fundamental and translational research, and engage with people and communities throughout the region and the state to improve health in order to create a full-fledged research-intensive enterprise that will become America’s next great health science center in Spokane.”
Bryan Slinker, WSU’s vice provost for health sciences, said “WSU has been building the Spokane campus with a focus on health sciences for some time. This designation provides a clear commitment from the university’s administration and governing board to accelerate development of a comprehensive academic health science center in Spokane, building on the excellent basic science and health-related research that will continue to take place at WSU Pullman.”
The proclamation pointed to WSU’s history in the education of health professionals and the opportunity to emphasize a new interprofessional approach in preparing doctors, nurses, pharmacists and others.
WWAMI, nursing, pharmacy
WSU was a founding partner with the University of Washington School of Medicine in establishing the five-state collaborative medical education program known as WWAMI (Washington-Wyoming-Alaska-Montana-Idaho). Within the WWAMI program, first-year medical students study at WSU Spokane and WSU Pullman. In Spokane, an effort is now under way to add second-year studies and complete the medical education system there.
WSU’s College of Nursing graduates more nurses each year than any other program in the state. The WSU College of Pharmacy currently teaches its final two years at WSU Spokane; the first two years of the program will move to Spokane when a new Biomedical/Health Sciences Building is finished.
The language in the proclamation citing the opportunity to be “America’s next great health science center in Spokane” is drawn directly from a recent economic impact study conducted by Tripp Umbach, the nation’s leading expert on analysis of health sciences campuses and medical colleges. The study found that continuing to build the Riverpoint Campus as a research-intensive comprehensive academic health science campus would drive growth in the regional healthcare sector with an eventual statewide economic impact of $2.1 billion per year. Of that, $1.6 billion in economic impact would be felt in the eastern Washington region.
At the June 11 unveiling of the study at a Greater Spokane Incorporated meeting, Paul Umbach noted that this study unlike many they have done that focus solely on a medical school’s contributions rests on creating the integrated healthcare campus of the future.
“This campus will be a cheetah, not a dinosaur,” Umbach said, in describing the way the campus can take advantage of its lack of silos to build programs that integrate across disciplines, teach students to work effectively in interprofessional teams, and expand interdisciplinary research and collaboration.
WSU Spokane Chancellor Brian Pitcher said, “We applaud this action by the Board of Regents aligning and focusing WSU Spokane priorities on growing the regional healthcare industry. Spokane’s business and community leaders are giving top priority to accelerate economic development through university based research and our healthcare partners want to participate in education and research.
“Investment in interdisciplinary health science research and education including medicine, pharmacy and nursing will improve health care access, quality of care, and fuel economic growth,” said Pitcher. “Eastern Washington, the state, and beyond will be healthier as a result of the programs and services here. We have an opportunity to lead the way into the future of health care with a new campus and a new culture of collaboration.”
At the same meeting, the Regents approved a capital budget including $70.775 million for construction of the Biomedical/Health Sciences Phase One Building at WSU Spokane. The building is the top priority on the university’s capital construction request for the upcoming legislative session. It will provide space for students in medicine, pharmacy and dentistry, and lab and clinical space in the building will bring together students from across the health professions to engage in interprofessional, team-based learning.