Washington State University, intent on starting its own medical school, is leaving the multi-state cooperative — headed by the University of Washington — that trains doctors for the entire Pacific Northwest.
WSU and UW officials announced the split late Friday after meeting in Spokane.
“Both universities acknowledge that UW and WSU must devote their separate time, efforts and resources into pursuing their respective proposals for meeting the state’s medical education objectives,” the agreement said.
UW will continue to expand its medical programs in Spokane and WSU still intends to base its medical school in Spokane as well, the agreement said.
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Neither will oppose the other’s efforts in lobbying the Legislature for money to complete those initiatives.
The universities still must negotiate the transfer of state dollars and buildings in Spokane, currently overseen by WSU, to UW. It’s unclear where WSU would house its fledgling medical school, which could open to students in the fall of 2017.
“We won’t know the answers until that process is completed,” WSU spokeswoman Kathryn Barnard-La Pointe told the Herald in an email.
UW's School of Medicine is the base for WWAMI, the cooperative agreement between Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho. Some of those students have completed part of their education at WSU's Pullman and Spokane campuses.
WSU spent $250,000 in private donations to have national consulting firm MGT of America study whether to start a medical school. University officials cite the shortage of primary care physicians statewide and the lack of expansion of UW’s program, the state's only public medical school and one of only two public medical schools in the Pacific Northwest.
MGT’s report said WSU is far ahead of other universities considering starting a medical school. The Spokane campus has all the infrastructure needed to support the program, requiring no capital expenses. WSU initially would need $17 million in startup money over nine years.
WSU would use a community-based medical education model, where clinical campuses located around the state — including the Tri-Cities — would provide hands-on training for 3rd- and 4th-year medical students, officials said.
The WSU Board of Regents voted unanimously to move forward with starting the medical school and seeking accreditation at its most recent meeting.
UW officials criticized the MGT study, saying it contained inaccurate information, disregarded the limited pool of state funding available to start the program and support WWAMI, and minimized the work WWAMI has done in the state.
WSU still wanted to be partners in WWAMI even if it opened its own medical school, officials had said.
However, UW officials have said for months they doubted they could work with a university that offered a potential rival to their program.