How will Washington State University’s plan to have a second public medical school in the state of Washington impact Sunnyside?
We believe it will make things better in a variety of significant ways.
First, the vision for this medical school from late WSU President Elson S. Floyd was to give rural Washingtonians help on a serious shortage of physicians in our state, not to mention on the shortage in our rural areas.
As a land grant university, it is WSU’s mission to meet the needs of the people of our state when we are able, and we believe wholeheartedly we are able.
Second, the WSU medical school will be based in Spokane, but have satellite locations on its campuses in the Tri-Cities, Vancouver and Everett, where the medical students will be based for the last two years of their medical education after receiving their first two years in Spokane. Those satellite locations will allow the students to spread out to clinical experiences in nearby small towns.
Third, fewer Washington students will have to move away and pay out-of-state or private tuition. There will be significantly more than the 120 seats available for Washington students who are qualified to attend medical school but don’t get into the University of Washington, or the 70 seats available at the private Pacific Northwest University in Yakima.
And last, Washington State University will actively recruit medical students in the smaller towns - like Sunnyside - on both sides of the state with the hope that some of them will return to practice medicine in those communities.
Where do we stand now in our efforts to establish a medical school?
WSU-Spokane is WSU’s designated health sciences campus, with the colleges of Nursing, Pharmacy and Medicine headquartered in Spokane. Last spring, the Washington legislature supported changing a 97-year-old law to allow for a second medical school in the state and granted us $2.5 million in start-up money.
After a national search, we hired Dr. John Tomkowiak, a veteran of community-based medical education, to lead the new school. We expect this hire will increase momentum that began when Elson Floyd started leading this pursuit in the fall of 2014.
The medical college will be called the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine.
We are now working with the national accreditation organization for medical schools to gain our preliminary accreditation, which will enable us to recruit our first class.
We have also been traveling around the state to meet with health care providers to form partnerships that will allow those providers to host medical students. Physicians, many of them practicing in Eastern Washington, are being hired to develop the curriculum and teach the students.
We plan to begin recruiting the first WSU medical students next fall. We anticipate the first class of WSU medical students starting in August of 2017.
This is indeed an exciting time. We look forward to working with schools in communities like Sunnyside to steer students toward a career in the health sciences, whether in medicine, nursing, pharmacy or one of the other health-related programs on our campus.
To find out more, please go to www.medicine.wsu.edu.
‑ Lisa Brown is a WSU-Spokane Chancellor.