WSU and UW agree to split, pursue medical education separately

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"Deal?" "Deal."
  • "Deal?" "Deal."

Call it an amicable divorce.

Last week, the Inlander published a story about the conflict between Washington State University and the University of Washington. It detailed how WSU’s concerns about the lack of medical students in rural areas of Washington and its conflicts with UW had led it to pursue the creation of its own medical school. Yet UW was worried that school would suck away resources from its own program in Spokane and harm a 43-year-partnership.

Yet the moment the story went online last Wednesday, hours of discussions were underway in UW president Michael Young’s office. The discussions, between Young, WSU president Elson Floyd, UW regent Orin Smith, WSU regent Mike Worthy, Avista CEO Scott Morris and former Providence CEO Mike Wilson, lasted hours.

“Both organizations felt this was something for us to sort out as opposed to asking our state legislature to sort it out,” Worthy says.

When they were finished, it ended with a handshake. An agreement had been reached. A nasty legislative battle between the two universities had been avoided.

Ultimately, it means WSU can freely pursue their medical school, but will be dissolving their "WWAMI" partnership with UW. Both schools will seek to expand medical education in Spokane, and neither will oppose the other's goals in the legislature. The details about reallocation of state resources and use of the Spokane facility still have to be worked out, but all that negotiation will take place before the legislature kicks off in January.

Today, the UW website, once devoted to rebutting WSU's claims about their own medical school, announces: 

Leadership at the University of Washington and Washington State University have reached an agreement that will mutually dissolve their WWAMI partnership and provide a pathway to pursue separate solutions to address the state’s medical education needs and physician shortage.

In order to provide the greatest benefit to the state and to meet the significant demand for more physicians, leaders from both universities agree that UW and WSU will independently pursue their respective proposals to meet the state’s medical education needs. The two universities have signed a Memorandum of Understanding that acknowledges both WSU’s immediate efforts to secure accreditation for a new medical school and UW School of Medicine’s independent pursuit of rapid expansion of its four-year WWAMI program in Spokane.

“The collective needs of our students, the Spokane community, and our state are our top priority,” said UW President Michael K. Young. “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, healthcare economy well into the future.”

"Let me just say this: The outcomes of our discussions will lead to more doctors in Eastern Washington than any of us had previously discussed,” Worthy says. “It’s going to be great for Spokane... I think both universities have really put themselves out there, to get the job done to address the challenge of the shortage of docs.”