WSU one step closer to medical school

The legal battle for a medical school in Spokane wages on, but the future looks bright for prospects of a WSU-run school.

A bill currently awaiting signature from Governor Jay Inslee will eliminate the exclusive right to a medical school in the state held by the University of Washington, and $8 million toward the upgrade has been included in the House Democrats’ budget proposal.

The budget is still in the works, and should be decided by the end of April, unless additional special sessions are needed, said ASWSU Vice President Jansen VanderMeulen.

He said the two schools have previously agreed to not actively oppose the other’s medical school pursuits, but the success or failure depends on a budgetary agreement between the aisles.

“Funds are always tight, and now there may be opposition from legislators who simply don’t want a WSU med school,” VanderMeulen said. He said the school would provide a much needed service to the rural areas of the state, which sit in the shadow of King County and the Puget Sound area.

Ken Roberts, director of the College of Medical Sciences, said a medical school in Spokane would add a variety of professional medical programs to the campus, including biomedicine and genetics.

“When you have professional degree programs, it fosters a lot of academic growth,” Roberts said. “Since we already have the facilities, no changes are needed.”

If legal proceedings end in WSU’s favor, Roberts said the next step is to await accreditation from the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME), which will use $2.5 million of the proposed budget.

The LCME is an outreach of the American Medical Association, and deems an institution worthy of training medical professionals. After a curriculum is created, the preliminary accreditation process takes about one year.

If everything moves efficiently into place, Roberts said the medical school could recruit its first students for the 2017-18 school year. This would be three years after the University’s feasibility study for a med school, conducted in 2014.

“This natural progression has been at work for a while,” said Roberts. “We’re very excited about where we are.”

Chris Mulick, Director of Government Relations in Olympia, said for the last year, the University has been meeting with legislators to stress the importance of the $2.5 million needed for the accreditation process.

Should Governor Inslee sign the bill to authorize the school, Mulick said the budget is necessary to hire faculty and recruit students.

“Everything is still fluid right now,” said Mulick. “We’re hoping the Senate will present a similar budget.”