SPOKANE, Washington – Gonzaga University intends to engage in a community-focused exploration of a medical education and research partnership with the University of Washington School of Medicine in Spokane. This announcement, made Dec. 1 by Gonzaga President Thayne McCulloh, follows an invitation to Gonzaga, from UW, to consider forming a new partnership to sustain and potentially expand UW Spokane’s medical school, and create opportunities to grow biomedical research in Spokane.
“We at Gonzaga, together with many other community members, have actively supported expansion of WWAMI medical education – and the promise of economic growth stimulated by research – in Spokane since the original proposal to bring the four-year medical school to the University District launched,” said President McCulloh. “Given the reality that expanding medical education has always been considered in view of the opportunities for Spokane and the benefits to Eastern Washington, we feel it is important to get community input on the role and value of a UW-GU partnership.”
The UW has proposed development of a public-private partnership in the context of the UW School of Medicine’s WWAMI (Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho) program – a five-state, community-based medical education enterprise that is recognized as the top primary care, family medicine and rural medicine program in the nation.
“A key strength of the University of Washington School of Medicine has always been strong and dynamic partnerships with higher education partners and healthcare professionals in communities across our region. Gonzaga not only has a national reputation for academic excellence, but also a deep commitment to the economic and social well-being of the Spokane community and the region,” said UW President Michael Young. “We are excited about the opportunities this public-private partnership could create — for students, faculty, and for greater research and economic development activity in Spokane.”
A 2009 Tripp Umbach report, commissioned by Greater Spokane Inc., estimated that a comprehensive academic health sciences and research campus anchored by the four-year WWAMI medical school would have a $1.6 billion economic impact and create more than 9,000 jobs over a 20-year period.
The goals of the UW-GU partnership, as envisioned, would be to sustain the excellence of the UW School of Medicine’s top-ranked medical school, accelerate the expansion of medical education and biomedical research in Spokane, and build on Gonzaga’s strengths in undergraduate and graduate health science education and applied scientific research. As one of Spokane County’s 10 largest private employers, Gonzaga has a significant economic presence in the community and is well-positioned to assist in achieving the economic benefits imagined in the 2009 report.
McCulloh added that Gonzaga’s commitment to healthy and positive collaboration between regional colleges and universities remains a priority as Washington State University pursues independent accreditation for its proposed medical school. “The higher education institutions in Spokane have a long history of supporting one another. We believe expansion of healthcare education to meet the critical need for additional doctors and healthcare professionals throughout the state and region will require the invested efforts of all of Spokane higher education,” he said.
The proposed partnership would be the first WWAMI collaboration involving an independent, Catholic and Jesuit university. “There is precedent for such partnerships, which have been successfully created and operated across the nation,” McCulloh said. “The mission and values of WWAMI’s single curriculum are compatible with Gonzaga’s mission and values, as is the focus on community welfare. Physician shortages are demanding innovative solutions, and we believe that public-private partnerships will play an important role in the future of medicine.”
Over the coming weeks, Gonzaga and the University of Washington will engage with key constituencies – including civic leaders, members of the business and education communities, and their respective faculties and governing boards – in the evaluation of the potential partnership. “The expansion of medical education and research is a top priority for Spokane, and if Gonzaga can meaningfully assist in the achievement of that goal, we feel an obligation to seriously consider how best to do so,” said McCulloh.