A University of Washington panel headed by former Gov. Dan Evans believes the best way to quickly increase the number of doctors working in rural Washington is for the UW to expand its medical school program in Spokane.
The panel also recommends creating more residencies in rural areas, particularly Eastern Washington.
It did not weigh in on what’s become a sore point between UW and Washington State University: whether it’s also necessary for WSU to build its own, separate medical school in Spokane to alleviate the physician shortage. The panel’s report notes that it was not given the task of determining “if a separately accredited medical school is necessary or should be pursued by WSU.”
The UW and WSU, which used to work together to provide medical training at WSU’s Spokane campus, split earlier this year over how best to increase the number of doctors in Washington’s rural areas. There is a shortage of primary care doctors in those areas today, a problem that’s expected to get worse as baby boom-era doctors retire.
WSU wants to build its own medical school, and the UW wants to increase the number of doctors it already trains in that city. The issue is likely to be resolved by the state Legislature in the 2015 session because both schools need money to accomplish their aims.
What the panel recommended: increase the size of the UW’s Spokane program so that it can accept 120 new medical students a year, up from 40 now; grow medical education opportunities beyond Spokane by partnering with other communities, such as the Tri-Cities; include a specific plan for research and commercialization activities for the UW’s Spokane program; and expand medical residencies in rural and underserved areas.
The panel was convened by UW President Michael Young, and included two current WSU regents, two former WSU regents, two UW regents and one former UW regent.
Both universities hired consultants that endorse the economic wisdom of each institution’s proposals. But while WSU officials said the state needs both the UW Spokane program and a WSU medical school, the UW report says that Eastern Washington cannot support two medical schools because there’s a limit on the number of clinical training and residency sites available.