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Spokane's newest medical students start their journey

Doug Nadvornick/SPR
The 61 University of Washington students, wearing their new stethoscopes, pose for a group photo on their first day of orientation Thursday in Spokane.

About 15 years ago, Spokane’s first group of 20 medical students began their studies. Now, 140 new students begin their careers here each year. On Thursday 61 from the University of Washington [33 women, 28 men] started orientation at the UW Gonzaga Health Partnership building on the Gonzaga campus.

Four, including Maddie Bruner, are GU alums.

“I come from a very, very, very long line of public educators and everyone has always become a teacher," she said. " I am the first one to do anything other than that specialty. So I think that they are so greatly supportive and understand it is going to be a journey and going to away for a long time, but at the same time, can’t even grasp what the next year of my life looks like.”

Bruner is from Lakewood, Washington. She graduated from Gonzaga in 2021 and says she looks forward to renewing friendships with faculty members and students she knew while she was here.

Bruner and her peers began their orientation yesterday by participating in a ceremony practiced at medical schools around the country. They parade by one-by-one and faculty members drape stethoscopes around their necks. It’s both symbolic and practical. These are the stethoscopes they’ll use as they learn to examine patients.

One of Bruner’s fellow Gonzaga alums is Pearl Griffiths, who is back in familiar territory. She graduated from GU in 2020, then took the medical school entrance exam. She didn’t score as well as she’d hoped, so she left town and went to Atlanta to do some more preparation work. She took the test again, scored higher and was admitted to the UW medical school. She had a choice of studying in Seattle or Spokane.

“I am actually originally from Seattle, so I’ve lived in both places. I did undergrad at Gonzaga so I knew Spokane. I also knew Seattle from my childhood and I chose Spokane consciously," she said.

Griffifths has family in Colfax and wanted to be closer to them. She doesn’t know the other Gonzaga alums who are now her peers.

“I am excited to meet them. I have heard a couple of their names. I might recognize their faces. I did graduate in 2020, so depending on their journey of applying, I might not have had any classes with them," Griffiths said.

This is the second UW medical school class to begin its studies in the state-of-the-art building shared by the two universities.

“There’s big screens everywhere. There’s multiple ways you can use a classroom. It’s very flexible. It was designed with medical students in mind," said John McCarthy, the school’s assistant dean for the Office of Rural Programs.

Their medical school journey begins on Monday.

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.