- Associated Press - Friday, October 3, 2014

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) - Officials for the University of Washington and Washington State University have reached an agreement to go their own ways regarding Washington State’s proposal to open its own medical school in Spokane.

Last month, Washington State announced it would seek state approval to open its own medical school, which would focus on increasing the number of physicians practicing in underserved rural areas. The University of Washington had opposed that proposal.

On Friday, the schools issued a joint statement saying they had reached a deal that will mutually dissolve their partnership, known by the acronym WWAMI, in which students are trained by the University of Washington’s School of Medicine to serve communities in Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho. The acronym is made up of the first letter of each state’s name.

Leaders from both schools agreed that the University of Washington and Washington State will independently pursue their respective proposals to meet the state’s medical education needs and physician shortage.

The two universities have signed a memorandum of understanding that acknowledges both Washington State’s immediate efforts to secure accreditation for a new medical school and the University of Washington School of Medicine’s independent pursuit of rapid expansion of its four-year WWAMI program in Spokane. Much of that work will involve money from the Legislature.

“The collective needs of our students, the Spokane community and our state are our top priority,” University of Washington President Michael K. Young said. “To this end, the UW remains fully committed to immediately expanding our medical school in Spokane, including a commitment to grow the research, industry-commercialization and medical-residency opportunities that will ensure a vibrant health care economy well into the future.”

Washington State President Elson S. Floyd agreed.

“Now is the time to address the physician shortage confronting a great many Washington State communities,” Floyd said. “This memorandum of understanding provides a clear path forward for each of our universities and allows us to refocus our efforts on how best to serve the people of our state.”

The universities have agreed to work together on a subsequent agreement to fully transition the WWAMI program in Spokane to the University of Washington.

Assuming completion of that agreement, both institutions agree not to oppose each other’s legislative initiatives to expand medical-education opportunities.

It is the goal of both universities to complete further discussions and define a transition plan before the 2015 legislative session.

Washington State has complained that the state does not produce enough doctors under the multistate WWAMI program. The lack of doctors is especially acute in rural areas, WSU has said.

The University of Washington is the only public medical school among the five states, and it enrolls 120 Washington students each year. Washington State University, which had a deal with UW to train some WWAMI students, has said it will seek accreditation and funding to open a medical school that will also eventually enroll 120 students per year.

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Information from: The Spokesman-Review, http://www.spokesman.com

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