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Gonzaga and Legislature Enter Medical School Conversation

Paige Browning

This week both Washington State University and University of Washington revealed their next moves in developing a Spokane medical school. A WSU news conference Tuesday followed a UW announcement Monday. The newest proposals drag Gonzaga University and the state legislature into the conversation, and both will hinge on some public support.

UW has asked Gonzaga University to consider a medical education partnership, now that UW and WSU dissolved their Spokane program. GU President Thayne McCulloh says UW officials approached him in October.

McCulloh: “Gonzaga is not only here to serve the interest of its own students, but also it is and]wants to be an active part of the community and its welfare, that really in my view obligated me to accept the invitation that the UW has extended."

But, he says a partnership is not set in stone.

McCulloh: “…and we are looking forward to opportunities to talk more broadly with people in the community about what role Spokane sees Gonzaga playing.”

He says now that WSU and UW have dissolved their WWAMI partnership in Spokane, Gonzaga would assume a similar role. McCulloh says many details are up the air, like what Gonzaga’s financial commitment would be, what campus the students would attend, and whether it fits with Gonzaga’s priorities. He says its likely Gonzaga faculty would teach classes in the partnership.

WSU’s proposal, meanwhile, can’t move forward unless a 1917 state law is amended. Enter State Senator Michael Baumgartner and Representative Marcus Riccelli, of Spokane. They got cheers Tuesday when they announced plans to sponsor changes to the law, which only allows UW to operate a medical school. Baumgartner says they’ll also request $2.5 million from the biennial budget.

Baumgartner: “I assure everyone that out of a $37 billion budget we will be able to find $2.5 million. This will not be a significant challenge.”

Baumgartner and Riccelli both pressed the importance of their bipartisan effort to support WSU’s plan. Representative Riccelli added that it will take some knocking on colleagues’ doors. But he says communities outside of Spokane, namely rural areas, are supporting the school, and he thinks lawmakers will too.

UW and WSU have agreed to independently pursue med school plans, though both would require state funding in the coming years.

Copyright 2014 Spokane Public Radio

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