Growth projections suggest that Washington will need an additional 1,695 primary-care physicians between 2010 and 2030.

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Physician shortages plague vast areas of Washington state. Sixteen of 39 Washington counties are severely underserved, with 10.4 or fewer doctors per 10,000 residents. Rural hospitals and clinics in particular often struggle to attract doctors to their communities.

The state’s surging population could worsen physician shortages. Growth projections suggest that Washington will need an additional 1,695 primary-care physicians between 2010 and 2030, or 85 more per year.

“A primary mission of land-grant institutions is to fill educational gaps that exist in their states and reach into communities with practical solutions to improve the quality of life of their citizens, says Washington State University’s Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine’s Founding Dean John Tomkowiak. “WSU assessed the situation regarding the need to provide access to health care in challenging situations. The university stepped up and worked with legislators to authorize the launch of a second public medical school for the state of Washington.”

Addressing physician shortages

Physicians are more likely to practice in the areas where they receive their medical training, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians. Unlike traditional medical schools that train students in a university-owned, campus-based teaching hospital, the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine trains students in community hospitals and clinics across the state—in Spokane, Tri-Cities, Vancouver, Everett and surrounding communities.

The College was founded to improve access to health services in medically underserved communities in Washington. Expanding medical education opportunities throughout Washington builds a pipeline to communities that desperately need access to caring physicians.

“The Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine has created an infrastructure for health care education and delivery that is ‘bold, audacious, and visionary,’ the words so often spoken by the College’s namesake, the late WSU President Elson S. Floyd,” says Dean Tomkowiak. “He wanted the College to help expand access to health care in medically underserved areas of Washington.”

Training tomorrow’s health care leaders

This community-based model of medical education equips future physicians to become leaders in a rapidly changing health care landscape.

Starting in their first year, students gain experience working in a variety of community settings, including small hospitals and clinics focused on primary care. Through practical training, they build an understanding of the unique challenges that physicians in underserved regions face. They are taught how to engage community resources to forge solutions.

Dawn Dewitt, vice dean of student and faculty experience sums up the value of the community-based model of medical education: “A significant proportion of our students’ medical education can and will be personalized. You will have a group of faculty who’ve got your back. You are going to have a community behind you that is enthusiastic about your future as a doctor.”

Transforming medical education in Washington

Of the 45 U.S. states with accredited medical schools, Washington ranks 42nd in allowing eligible in-state applicants to attend.

The Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine will help make quality health care accessible in communities statewide.

“In my role as the founding dean of the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine, I challenge our students, clinical faculty, researchers, and staff to continue pursuing innovation and fostering collaboration,” says Dean Tomkowiak. “With the support of WSU President Kirk Schulz and all of the stakeholders who have made this school a reality, we can give every community in Washington access to high quality health care.”

Washington State University has delivered advanced education for more than 125 years. Its new medical school leverages that experience to achieve new milestones in medical research, innovation, interprofessional education and patient-centered care. Find out more at