- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 17, 2014

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) - Officials from the University of Washington and Washington State University held meetings earlier this year to discuss a possible deal on “co-branding” a medical school in Spokane.

The Spokesman-Review (https://bit.ly/1u8yvRS) reported Wednesday that a third meeting to seal an agreement was stymied when WSU officials hesitated.

The board of regents from WSU on Friday unanimously approved the administration’s controversial effort to start a new medical school in Spokane, citing the “dire need” for more doctors in the state. WSU’s plan is opposed by the UW, which operates the state’s only publicly funded medical school.

Scott Morris, chairman and CEO of Avista Corp., a Spokane-based utility, represented Spokane’s interests in the negotiations along with former Providence Health Care executive Mike Wilson. They wanted the two schools to strike a deal before each released reports bolstering their own plans for training more doctors in Spokane.

Morris says people can “become entrenched” around such reports.

WSU Regent Mike Worthy said he needed to delay the meetings with Morris, Wilson and UW leadership when it became apparent they were pushing for a contract when he had not yet informed his own board of the progress.

Worthy and WSU President Elson Floyd also said they wanted to publicize a feasibility report commissioned by WSU that they believe lays out a compelling case for WSU to have its own medical school.

“I felt no urgency to rush out and sign a deal,” Worthy said.

Floyd and Worthy say they anticipate further meetings with UW in hopes of reaching a deal to establish a WSU medical school to operate alongside UW’s existing five-state program, which offers medical training at WSU along with public universities in Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho.

The two meetings this summer, which also included UW President Michael Young and UW Regent Orin Smith, were disclosed during a Tuesday meeting of a UW task force considering changes to the current arrangement.

The task force will tell Young that UW should expand the number of WWAMI students in Spokane as fast as it can.

Worthy said he told the group in both of the private meetings this summer, one in July in Seattle, the other in August in Spokane, that WSU would seek accreditation for its own medical school. WSU regents approved that move in a meeting last week.

A WSU medical school is the logical next step from the significant investments the school has made in health sciences, he said.

State Sen. Michael Baumgartner, R-Spokane, who serves on the higher education committee and is vice chairman of the budget-writing Senate Ways and Means Committee, urged the schools to find a solution.

But he warned UW representatives, “there’s a great question about how interested UW is in Spokane.”

A pilot program to teach second-year med students in Spokane only drew nine UW students this year. There was funding for 20 students.

“That doesn’t impress a lot of folks,” Baumgartner said.


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

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