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Sep 13, 2014 04:14 AM EDT

WSU to Establish New Medical School despite UW Doubts

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Washington State University Board of Regents approved to establish a new medical school in Spokane to fill the state's demand for more doctors.

"The easy path for us to take would be to support the status quo," Regent Scott Carson said. "The data tells us there's a need, and we should move forward to fill that need."

However, the University of Washington that runs the state's only public medical school opposes WSU proposal.

"We believe creating a second, $47 million MEDICAL SCHOOL raises many questions and concerns about the highest and best use of limited resources," University of Washington Regent Orin Smith said, Newstimes reports.

WSU President Elson S. Floyd said the university will definitely continue its association with the UW's WWAMI program, which trains doctors for the states of Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho.

"There is no question that the excellence of the University of Washington program is a real blessing to the state," Regent Laura Jennings said. "We need both WWAMI and a new MEDICAL SCHOOL to meet the needs."

The state of Washington is experiencing a shortage of doctors, especially beyond the Seattle metropolitan area and the figures are expected to grow.

Nearly 50 percent of the state's physicians are located in King County in the Seattle area. The figure represents four times the normal number and exceeds 29 percent population share. On the other hand, 18 of 39 counties in Washington have 10 or fewer physicians per 10,000 people.

State Sen. Michael Baumgartner, R-Spokane, said that he would vote for a second medical school in the Legislature.

"The ability of the state to have another accredited medical program for only an initial INVESTMENT of $2.5 million gives the Legislature something to strongly consider," Baumgartner said. "I intend to find a model where University of Washington and Washington State University do it together," he said. "I will not allow this to become the Apple Cup of MEDICAL SCHOOLS."

A feasibility study found that the Washington State University has sufficient assets and experience training medical students due to its health sciences campus in Spokane and its involvement in the WWAMI program.

Another study by MGT of America Inc. found that a medical school in Spokane could double the graduation rates of in-state medicine students.

The new medical school is expected to be in operation in the beginning of fall 2017 with $98,000 in tuition.

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