The Bellingham Herald and The Olympian, in identical editorials, argue persuasively that the most cost-effective way to expand medical education in the Pacific Northwest is to grow the University of Washington’s now-43-year-old WWAMI program, rather than spending $150M to create a new medical school at Washington State University.
“It was a revolutionary concept in 1971 when the University of Washington School of Medicine pioneered the nation’s first collaborative medical school with the University of Alaska and Washington State University. The goal was to expand UW’s world-class medical school to train new doctors in hospitals and clinics located throughout the two states.
“The concept was ‘way ahead of its time,’ according to former state senator Lisa Brown from Spokane in an article she co-wrote last year. The cost-effective medical school is known today as WWAMI, an acronym for the five-state region it serves – Montana and Idaho joined in 1972 and Wyoming in 1996 …
“WWAMI has been rated No. 1 in the nation for primary care medical education for the past 22 years. It also ranks No. 1 in family medicine and rural medicine. And it achieves those results at about a third of the national average in cost per student …
“Washington State University has commissioned a $250,000 feasibility study for a new medical school due later this summer. No doubt it will show a positive economic impact for Spokane. But is that a persuasive reason to spend the state’s limited tax dollars?
“Wouldn’t it make more sense to invest in expanding the WWAMI enrollments, if and when the Legislature can fund them?”
The need for common sense approaches is particularly acute given the judicial mandate for increased investment in K-12 education, and the fact that computer science – and engineering more broadly – exhibits a severe workforce shortage in our state, coupled with extraordinary unmet student demand.
Let’s spend our precious education dollars where we get the greatest bang for the buck!