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Washington Too Big For Just One Medical School

WSU is already a bona fide world-class research organization with myriad excellent health science programs already in place. Given the outstanding technical capabilities of the local medical community, I think developing an independent WSU medical school is the next logical step and the right thing to do for our citizens. The benefits to the region are worth the efforts.


From the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin
July 18, 2014   VIEW WEB SITE >>

I am new to Eastern Washington, coming here last fall to take the job as medical director at St. Luke’s Rehabilitation Institute in Spokane. I have held a faculty appointment in the University of Washington School of Medicine for the past 20 years.

I am a huge fan of UW, truly a world-class institution and medical school. But I must say I am very impressed with the programs Washington State University has set up in Spokane.

WSU is already a bona fide world-class research organization with myriad excellent health science programs already in place. Given the outstanding technical capabilities of the local medical community, I think developing an independent WSU medical school is the next logical step and the right thing to do for our citizens. The benefits to the region are worth the efforts.

We are in a time of grave shortages of health care providers, particularly physicians. Nowhere is that more felt than in the rural communities of Eastern Washington.

The new national health care law poses even more pressure on an already overburdened health care system. It is estimated that at current graduation and training rates, the nation could face a shortage of as many as 150,000 doctors in the next 15 years, with the greatest demand being for primary-care physicians, according to data collected by the Association of American Medical Colleges.

Having a single medical school for a state the size of Washington makes no sense and can never meet the need.

In my humble opinion, the time for a WSU School of Medicine to happen is now. In fact, it probably should have happened 10 years ago.

Open a WSU School of Medicine and you will have thousands of applicants. Already, hundreds of students each year have to leave Washington to attend medical school in another state or country.

Those students are more likely to practice medicine where they go to medical school and where they receive their graduate medical education. With a new school in Washington, WSU medical students would serve in hospitals and clinics around the region.

Another huge advantage is that having an independent WSU School of Medicine will help further attract more federal dollars to fund research. That would add to an already impressive core of federally funded research existing at the WSU health sciences campus. The next step beyond that is expanding current and developing new local residency programs for WSU students as they graduate.

This is not about UW versus WSU or any such rivalry. This is about doing what is best for Washington residents and the greater Pacific Northwest. I am voicing these opinions not only as a physician but also as an aging adult wondering who will be around to take care of my health care needs as I grow older.

All of this is eminently doable. It needs to be done and the time to act is now. Political and academic agendas should not stand in the way of protecting the future of health care for the citizens of Eastern Washington.

Dr. Gregory T. Carter is medical director at St. Luke’s Rehabilitation Institute in Spokane.

 

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