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Idaho legislator proposes conditions for the state's medical school grads

Courtesy of the University of Idaho/WWAMI
More than 40 Idaho students learn in Moscow as enrollees of the University of Washington's medical school.

Rep. Mike Moyle wants four years of practice in Idaho

Idaho’s one public medical school trains more than 40 students a year with a goal of returning many of them to the Gem State to practice after they graduate. But the return is apparently not enough for one prominent Idaho legislator.

House Majority Leader Mike Moyle wants to impose some requirements on Idaho’s graduates of the University of Washington’s five-state medical school known as WWAMI [pronounced whammy]. The state provides some or all of those students with help with their tuition. Moyle told a House committee recently the state should get something in return.

“We’re going to help you with your education, but we want you to come back to Idaho and spend some time here and help reimburse the citizens of the state who paid for your opportunity to go to that school, who helped subsidize that education," he said.

Moyle’s bill requires four years of full-time practice from new doctors. It applies not just to Idaho’s WWAMI graduates, but also the 10 Idaho students admitted to the University of Utah medical school. Moyle says other states in the WWAMI system impose similar restrictions.

WWAMI Idaho leaders, such as Dr. Mary Barinaga, aren’t crazy about the bill. They say there are many reasons why many medical student graduates don’t return to the Gem State, some out of their control. Some of it is related to their post-medical school training, known as residency.

“Data shows that most people end up practicing within about 100-mile radius of where they do their residency and so what we’ve been doing is having an effort to expand residency programs within the state of Idaho. We want all of our WWAMI grads to be able to have the option to do residency within our state," she said.

Idaho has a handful of residency programs, but Barinaga says medical school graduates often must leave the state and even the region to get the specialty training they need.

Moyle’s bill was moved out of committee to the full House for consideration.

One of the Northwest's most seasoned reporters is returning to his SPR roots. Doug Nadvornick will be heard frequently on KPBX and KSFC reporting on local news.