SPOKANE, Wash. - Just shy of three years after it announced the dissolution of it's medical school partnership with the University of Washington, Washington State University opened the doors to the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine on Wednesday.
“It's a really exciting and inspiring day,” said founding dean John Tomkowiak.
In order to even operate the school, WSU had to seek approval from the state legislature. A 1917 state law gave the UW exclusive rights to operate medical education in the state. Lawmakers passed legislation giving WSU the green light in 2015.
“It's really a culmination of almost two years worth of effort of not only the community but of the faculty and staff here at the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine to bring this inaugural class here,” Tomkowiak said.
The first cohort has 60 members, ranging in age from mid 20's to mid 30's. As part of the application process, all were required to demonstrate some tie to the state of Washington- such as proof they live here, spent their childhood here, have parental ties here or graduated from a Washington state school.
That's in part because of WSU's goal for these doctors-in-training.
“We're going to be doing what every other medical school is doing but in addition to that our students are going to be trained in how to take care of people in more rural communities and under served communities.
According to the Washington State Department of Health, several counties and population groups within some counties (including Spokane County) have limited access to healthcare. Many of these areas are more rural- with residents spread out, centralizing access to doctors can be difficult. Telemedicine and technology are used frequently- that's one area WSU medical students will study.
“It's not about competing against each other anymore, it's about working together as a team. That's how they are going to take care of patients, it's about the team and working toward the benefit of the patient,” Tomkowiak said.
The program runs four years. Two will be spent in Spokane, and two at other locations including Vancouver, Tri-Cities or Everett.
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