UW criticizes WSU med school study

By Nicholas K. Geranios, Associated Press | Posted - Sep. 15, 2014 at 5:00 p.m.



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SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — The University of Washington on Monday criticized as deeply flawed a study released last week that supported the creation of a new medical school in Spokane by rival Washington State University.

A statement from the Seattle university said the study released last week contained "faulty assumptions, omissions and erroneous data.

"These flaws raise significant concerns about the actual feasibility of a WSU medical school," the UW statement said.

Officials for Washington State University stood by the results of the feasibility study. They contend a big shortage of doctors outside the Seattle metropolitan area justifies creation of a public medical school in Spokane. The Legislature would have to provide funding for the project, which would likely compete with the University of Washington's multi-state WWAMI program for students and resources.

The University of Washington complained in particular that the study by MGT of America, Inc. assumed the re-direction of funds from the existing WWAMI medical education program in Spokane to the new WSU medical school there.

"You can't spend the same public dollars twice," the UW said.

The MGT study also estimated medical tuition costs in the WWAMI program at $214,000 per year, when the actual cost is around $70,000 a year, the UW said. That made it cheaper than the estimated Spokane medical tuition of $98,000 a year, the UW said.

UW also noted that it is a pioneer in community-based medical education and is actively working to create more doctors in rural areas of eastern Washington.

The UW also said the WWAMI program can be quickly expanded with more money from the Legislature, while a new medical school would take longer to get off the ground.

Myra Hunt, an administrator at the Florida State University College of Medicine and consultant to MGT on this study, said she remains confident in the conclusions of the MGT study.

"The bottom line from my point of view is regardless of everything, they are admitting 120 Washington residents a year," Hunt said of the UW medical school. "The state of Washington is in dire need of health care professionals."

Washington State University's board of regents on Friday unanimously approved the administration's controversial effort to start a new medical school.

While approving WSU President Elson S. Floyd's pursuit of the independent medical school, the regents said the university should continue its partnership with the University of Washington's WWAMI program, which trains doctors for the states of Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho.

The board's approval came a day after a consulting firm said WSU is "well-positioned" to start a medical school.

The feasibility study released Thursday found Washington State University already has significant assets and long experience training medical students because of its health sciences campus in Spokane and its participation in the WWAMI program.

A medical school in Spokane could double the number of in-state students graduating from medical schools during the next decade, with no capital expenditure, the study found.

Preliminary accreditation could be earned in early 2016, according to the study, with the initial class beginning in fall 2017. It would cost $1 million to $3 million per year in state funds during the next few years to start the school. Funding needs would increase gradually, up to $47 million annually when the school reaches an enrollment of 480 students in 2024-25.

UW offers 120 medical school slots each year to in-state students. But other states with populations the size of Washington's typically offer more than 400 slots in medical schools per year, the study found.

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Nicholas K. Geranios

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