WSU News

WWAMI Spokane to pilot second year of training

SPOKANE, Wash. – In an important advance toward increasing the number of physicians in the largely rural Northwest, the University of Washington School of Medicine (UW) and Washington State University (WSU) announced their intention to collaborate on a pilot program that represents the next innovative step for regional medical education.
The pilot will expand the amount of training that University of Washington medical students can complete at the Riverpoint campus in Spokane as part of the WWAMI Spokane program at WSU Spokane. The pilot is being funded for two years with support from local donors; the universities will pursue legislative funding for continuation after the pilot period.
Currently, UW medical students from the seven first-year sites located throughout the five WWAMI states (Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho) spend their second year studying in Seattle. Under the new model, beginning in fall 2013, medical students who spend their first year in Spokane – and, as space is available, students from other WWAMI first-year sites – can choose to spend their second year in Spokane. Twenty second-year positions will be available in each of the pilot years.
Life scientists from WSU and clinicians hired by the UW to teach will participate in educating the second-year students. These individuals, in collaboration with faculty from the UW School of Medicine, will develop an innovative second-year curriculum for WWAMI Spokane that aligns with the curriculum content offered in Seattle. 
A team of educators has been working to develop the pilot curriculum: Ken Roberts, director of WWAMI Spokane and associate professor of molecular biosciences at WSU; George Novan, associate director of WWAMI Spokane and clinical professor of medicine; and Chris Coppin, clinical assistant professor of bioengineering at WSU, affiliate assistant professor of physiology and biophysics at the UW School of Medicine and project team manager of the pilot curriculum development.
“WWAMI Spokane and WSU are very excited to be part of the development and implementation of a new and innovative medical education curriculum,” said Roberts. “Our partnership with the University of Washington has been extremely successful, and we look forward to expanding the WWAMI program to include the second year of medical education and offering all four years of WWAMI medical education in Spokane.”
“We are very pleased to expand the WWAMI Spokane program,” said Suzanne Allen, vice dean for regional affairs in the UW School of Medicine and UW clinical professor of family medicine. “We expect that, if the program is successful in attracting long-term funding beyond the pilot, it will result in much larger numbers of students who train in Spokane for as few as two and as many as all four years.
“The result will be more physicians for Spokane and eastern Washington,” she said. “And that is a result that makes everyone happy – most of all, patients who need healthcare.”
Spokane: Part of WWAMI since the program’s start
Since the start of the WWAMI program in 1971-72, many Spokane physicians have participated by providing clinical training for third- and fourth-year medical students in their practices. In fall 2008, WWAMI Spokane also began training first-year University of Washington medical students in partnership with WSU Spokane.
WWAMI Spokane first-year medical students study in an interprofessional setting on the Riverpoint campus. Riverpoint is home to a number of health sciences professional programs taught by WSU, UW and Eastern Washington University faculty, and WSU Spokane has been designated the official health sciences campus of the WSU system. 
Construction is under way on a new Biomedical and Health Sciences Building on the campus; the building is designed to house even larger numbers of medical students in the future along with the WSU College of Pharmacy.
This approach to regional medical education – training at a regional site as part of the curriculum of a single highly respected medical school – was made possible by strong and enthusiastic support from the Spokane business community, the time-tested strengths of the WWAMI program and the longstanding partnership between the UW School of Medicine and WSU.
“The WWAMI program is one of the most innovative and cost-effective medical education programs in the world,” said Paul Ramsey, CEO for UW Medicine and dean of the UW School of Medicine. “No other programs in our country train a medical workforce for so many states.
“We are strongly indebted to the Spokane business community and to our partners at WSU for working with us to make this wonderful innovation possible,” he said. “This is a terrific advance for our entire region.”
Warwick Bayly, provost for WSU, said, “The opportunity to expand our work in medical sciences with the addition of more research and teaching faculty at WSU Spokane fits into the larger goal of growing the WSU Health Sciences campus, and the chance to train the next generation of healthcare professionals in a new way is an exciting opportunity to lead the nation. The WWAMI program builds on the excellent foundation laid by our College of Nursing and College of Pharmacy, as well as adding to the overall portfolio of funded research.”
Participants from the Spokane community in the planning and fundraising for the pilot program have included: Greater Spokane Inc., Empire Health Foundation, Spokane County’s Health Sciences and Services Authority and other businesses and community members.
Spokane hosts graduate medical education summit and WWAMI celebration
The Riverpoint campus is the site for the March 23 second Graduate Medical Education (GME) Summit, sponsored by the WWAMI program. This meeting, first convened in 2010 at WSU Spokane on the Riverpoint campus, brings together medical educators and experts from throughout the Northwest and other parts of the nation to discuss how to build and finance more and better GME programs for the WWAMI region.
Graduate medical education is the portion of training that follows medical school training in which new physicians refine their skills within a particular chosen specialty. As WWAMI medical education grows, the five WWAMI states need more GME training sites as well. Where trainees complete their GME training is the best predictor of where they will choose to practice.
Speakers at the one-day summit include: Paul Ramsey, dean of the UW School of Medicine; Paul Rockey, director of graduate medical education for the American Medical Association; Russell Robertson, dean and vice president of medical affairs, Rosalind Franklin University, Chicago Medical School; Barbara Chang, director of medical and dental education, Office of Academic Affiliations, VA Central Office; and others.
On Thursday evening, March 22, just prior to the GME summit, a reception was held at the Davenport Hotel to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the WWAMI program. The anniversary is being celebrated at WWAMI sites throughout the five states during the current academic year.
WWAMI’s history
WWAMI – the five-state regional medical education partnership between the University of Washington School of Medicine and the states of Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho – began in 1971-72. The UW School of Medicine partners with these states and their state universities to train the next generation of physicians for cities and rural areas throughout the five-state region.
No other medical school in the nation offers training for such a broad geographic region and no other public medical school in the nation offers training for more than one state. Through its regional offerings and innovations, WWAMI is a model for other medical schools nationwide in distributed medical education.
The WWAMI program has resulted in very high return rates of medical students to their home states to practice medicine. Rural states traditionally have a difficult time attracting physicians to practice, but the WWAMI program has expanded the ability of the five participant states to maintain adequate numbers of physicians to care for their populations.
WWAMI has been widely cited as a landmark program; as a result of WWAMI, the UW School of Medicine has been rated No. 1 in the nation for rural health training for 20 consecutive years and No. 1 for primary care training for 18 consecutive years in U.S. News & World Report rankings of professional schools.
This year, the WWAMI program is celebrating its 40th anniversary with events and celebrations region-wide.
WSU was one of the founding university partners in the WWAMI system and has had first-year medical students at the Pullman campus since the beginning of the program.
Find WWAMI Spokane Q & A here.
For more information, visit the following links:
• UW Medicine    
• WWAMI Spokane    
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• @UWMedicineNews
• @WSUSpokane
Clare LaFond, UW Medicine/WWAMI program, 206-685-1323 (office), 206-953-8532 (cell),
Doug Nadvornick, WSU Spokane, 509-358-7540 (office), 509-570-3578 (cell),
Note: Suzanne Allen, vice dean for regional affairs, UW School of Medicine, and Ken Roberts, WWAMI-Spokane director, WSU, will be available for interviews. To schedule, contact Clare LaFond or Doug Nadvornick, above.