The Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine is already a success after just two years of training the next doctors for Washington’s small towns and rural communities.
Washington State University should get the funds to expand its Spokane-based medical school program from 60 students admitted each year to classes of 80 students a year.
This expansion would take nothing away from the University of Washington’s successful medical school program that trains doctors from Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho. The UW’s much-larger program — nearly 300 students in each class — also puts a special emphasis on medical care for underserved communities and has also been able to expand its program in Eastern Washington.
Our state simply needs more doctors. And more students would like to pursue health care as a career. The Floyd College of Medicine received 1,500 applicants for the incoming class, so filling those 80 seats shouldn’t be a problem.
The Legislature will be able to find $10.8 million for pay for the next two years of continuing education for WSU’s current medical students. But it should also expand that amount to meet the university’s request for $14.4 million, to add 20 new spots in new classes.
WSU officials say their intention has always been to educate 80 medical students in each class, because that is the financial sweet spot for the program. The college, named for the late WSU president who persuaded the Legislature to start the program, is partnering with more than 70 clinical sites across the state, in the small towns and rural areas where these medical students might practice when they graduate.
The students themselves also include a diverse representation of Washington’s population, geographically, ethnically and socioeconomically. Among the 120 WSU medical students, one-third are first generation college students, one-third are students of color, 38 percent are from economically disadvantaged backgrounds and 58 percent are women.
Neither the state House nor the Senate budget proposals include money for the WSU medical school expansion in the next biennium. Lawmakers should change that before they vote on a budget.
The Legislature should continue to build on this successful program and give WSU the money it needs to expand the Floyd College of Medicine. It is good for this fledgling program and will pay dividends for the state.