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Universities present plan to expand medical and dental education in Spokane

SPOKANE, WA--The presidents of the University of Washington, Washington State University and Eastern Washington University on Friday, July 21, announced their plan to expand Spokane's medical and dental education programs to meet the need for physicians and dentists locally and in nearby rural towns.

If funded by the state legislature, this would be the first increase in several decades in the number of Washington state residents admitted to the UW medical school and dental school. A budget request for WWAMI and the Regional Initiatives in Dental Education (RIDE) expansion is a key element in the legislative priorities for 2007 adopted by WSU, UW, and the Spokane Regional Chamber of Commerce. Eastern's board of trustees will consider their legislative agenda in their August meeting.

The plan includes the addition of up to 20 seats in medical education through the WWAMI program, and eight seats in dental education through the RIDE program. First-year students in both programs would take classes at the Riverpoint campus in Spokane.

Washington State University President V. Lane Rawlins noted that establishing a first-year medical/dental faculty in Spokane would have the added benefit of fostering biomedical research activities through collaborative projects with WSU Spokane life sciences faculty. "WSU is home to world-class faculty in the health and life sciences who will work closely with these new faculty members to expand our growing portfolio of competitively funded research while we also increase the number of medical students taught at WSU." WSU's Pullman campus was a founding partner in WWAMI.

The Spokane campus is being developed with a focus in this area, Rawlins said, adding that WSU is placing leadership in health sciences there under Chancellor Brian Pitcher to work closely with Spokane's strong hospital and medical community. WSU offers programs in a number of health professions in Spokane, including nursing, pharmacy, health policy and administration, speech and hearing sciences, and exercise physiology and metabolism.

Eastern Washington University President Rodolfo Arévalo lauded the cooperative nature of the proposal. "This partnership further connects the shared WSU/EWU campus to the community through health-related education and research," Arévalo said. EWU offers allied health programs in physical therapy, occupational therapy, dental hygiene and communication disorders (a joint graduate program with WSU) at Riverpoint.

The expansion would contribute to Spokane's regional role in medical care, higher education, and science, according to Ryland "Skip" Davis, the chief executive of Providence Health Care, which operates Sacred Heart Medical Center, and a member of the Chamber of Commerce Board of Trustees.

"The success of Spokane's clinical training programs for medical students, residents and physician assistants is due to excellent teaching by Spokane physicians and other health professionals, and to the high standards of the hospitals, clinics, mental health centers, and other medical facilities where students and residents train. The expansion of the WWAMI program in Spokane will build on this strong medical and educational foundation," said UW President Mark Emmert. "We are able to add dental students to the mix because of the academic strength of EWU and WSU and the support of local dentists."

The estimated costs for the expansion of the medical school will be about $5.5 million in annual operating costs, $4.9 million in start-up costs and $7.5 million in capital costs at the Riverpoint campus and UW. The average annual expenditure per medical student is estimated at $68,500. The estimated incremental costs for the expansion of the dental school, which assume that the medical school expansion is fully funded, will be about $2.2 million in annual operating costs, $1.3 million in start-up costs and $2.8 million in capital costs at the Riverpoint campus and UW. The average annual expenditure per dental student is estimated at $75,000.

"To address its health workforce shortages, Washington state needs more publicly funded students in the health professions, and the state has a proven training program in the WWAMI approach," said Emmert. "The collaboration among the state's private and public universities and colleges, hospitals, clinics and medical and dental professionals conserves resources and makes this a cost-effective way of meeting the demand."

"Educating medical and dental students and training newly graduated physicians and dentists in community-based settings, such as we have in Spokane," said Washington State Senator and Majority Leader Lisa Brown (3rd District-D), "prepares them for the daily rewards and challenges of community practice. This translates into high-quality medical care for the people of our region."

Fact Sheet

Spokane Expansion of Regional Programs in Medical and Dental Education - July 21, 2006

Web sites:

University of Washington:
Washington State University:
Eastern Washington University:
WSU Spokane:
University of Washington School of Medicine:
University of Washington School of Dentistry:
The WWAMI program at WSU: A Day in the Life:

Photos from 7-21-06 news conference in Spokane


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(Photos courtesy of Judith Van Dongen, WSU Spokane)

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