Meeting the state's health care needs

WSU explores whether to create its own medical school

Washington State University is working with the consulting company MGT of America to explore how to move forward with its medical education program.

WSU's work in medical education goes back to 1971 when it became a participant in the University of Washington School of Medicine's WWAMI (Washington Wyoming Alaska Montana Idaho) program. WSU has taught first-year medical students on the Pullman campus since then; third- and fourth-year medical students began training in Spokane's hospitals in the mid-1970s.

In 2008 WSU accepted its first group of first-year WWAMI medical students at its Spokane campus. In the fall of 2013 it added 19 second-year students (read more below) as part of a pilot program to extend UWSOM's second-year curriculum to WWAMI sites. Next fall, the students who would have been sent to WWAMI Pullman will come to Spokane instead. That means Spokane will have 40 first-year students and 20 second-year students.

But even with that growth, there's still a need for physicians in our region. The university decided to look at the concept of pursuing its own fully-accredited medical school in order to train more students to care for patients in this region.

We expect a full report from MGT by the end of June and will share the findings with you when we receive them.

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Second-year pilot program under way

WSU Spokane is teaching its first class of second-year medical students in the University of Washington School of Medicine WWAMI (Washington Wyoming Alaska Montana Idaho) program. They are the first second-year students to study in Spokane as part of a two-year pilot project that will test a new small-group, case-based curriculum. Fifteen of the 19 started their medical education in Spokane and chose to stay, rather than go back to Seattle for the traditional second-year program. Two join us from the Pullman WWAMI program, two from Montana.

The second-year curriculum in Spokane offers the same courses as in Seattle, but are taught in a small group format. The courses are led by practicing clinicians that we call clinical guides. The guides teach in small groups using case studies and active learning modalities.

About Medical Sciences

The Medical Sciences faculty are engaged in teaching graduate students, post doctoral faculty and medical students, and in biomedical research in a number of different fields including neuroscience, molecular biology, biochemical genetics and more. The Medical Sciences lab has a microscopy core facility for use by campus and community researchers, and is home to the nationally recognized Sleep and Performance Research Center, to the WWAMI Medical Education program in Spokane and WSU's Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences. WWAMI is a partnership between WSU and the University of Washington School of Medicine that educates new physicians and offers a specialty education track for those interested in working in the rural and underserved areas.

White coat


The WSU Board of Regents has heard details of a proposal to create the College of Medical Sciences. That would make our program one of three official health sciences 'colleges' on the Spokane campus. The Regents are scheduled to vote on the measure at their meeting in May. The proposal also already been approved by the Faculty Senate.

Research Professors Hans Van Dongen and Gregory Belenky have received a contract from Pulsar Informatics to provide expertise to FedEx Express for the implementation of fatigue risk management strategies, for data collection in pilots and for development and validation of a biomathematical model of fatigue.

Belenky has also secured $752,000 from United Airlines to study pilot sleep and performance in United's present and proposed ultra-long-range/extended duration flights. Belenky's team is studying whether careful management of preflight, inflight, layover and postflight sleep as well as other fatigue mitigations can effectively sustain pilot performance in these ultra-long-range/extended duration flights.

Interested in donating your body for anatomical study by medical students? Please consider the Willed Body program.