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Gonzaga is newest partner in WWAMI medical school consortium

File photo.

File photo.

Sixty first-year medical students from the University of Washington will begin taking classes at Gonzaga University this fall, the two schools said Feb. 23.

The deal allows the University of Washington School of Medicine to expand its medical education program in Spokane, and it provides an economic benefit to the Spokane region.

This agreement is separate from plans by Washington State University to establish a medical school at its branch campus in Spokane. WSU’s new Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine is planning to enroll its first class of 60 medical students in 2017.

The UW School of Medicine for 40 years has provided medical education in Spokane and eastern Washington, in partnership with Washington State University. But that partnership ended when WSU decided to pursue its own medical school.

The new deal makes Gonzaga a partner in UW’s multi-state medical education program known as WWAMI, for the acronyms of Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho. Washington is a public university, while Gonzaga is a private Jesuit school.

“Uniting Gonzaga University’s commitment to educational excellence, leadership and service with the UW’s nationally recognized medical school and research engine will continue the long tradition of educating doctors in Eastern Washington,” Gonzaga President Thayne McCulloh said.

Starting this fall, the 60 first-year students will report to dedicated facilities on the Gonzaga campus. Gonzaga faculty will recruit and teach medical students, together with UW faculty. The UW and Gonzaga will work together to develop shared facilities and undertake research.

“This is about more than a medical school, it’s about community and economic vitality,” UW President Ana Mari Cauce said. “Partnering with Gonzaga builds on the University of Washington’s lasting commitment to Spokane and Eastern Washington.”

Spokane business leaders have long sought to expand medical education in the state’s second-largest city, to relieve a shortage of doctors in rural areas and for economic development.

“It is critical to consider that growing medical education and related research has a potential $1.7 billion annual economic impact,” said Scott Morris, chief executive officer of Spokane-based Avista and chairman of the Gonzaga Board of Trustees. “This partnership will be a key part of reaching that goal.”

The two schools began talking in December 2014, after UW officials pitched the idea to McCulloh.

Under the WWAMI program, medical students begin their studies at regional universities in the five states and transfer to the UW in Seattle for advanced studies. University of Washington officials said last year they wanted to increase the number of students studying in Spokane to 60 per year from the current 40.

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