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WSU dedicates new home for its medical school

WSU third-year medical student Lensa Moen speaks at the ribbon cutting ceremony for the university's medical school headquarters building.
Doug Nadvornick/Spokane Public Radio
WSU third-year medical student Lensa Moen speaks at the ribbon cutting ceremony for the university's medical school headquarters building.

When Washington State University medical students return for fall semester in about a week, they’ll have a new home on the Spokane campus.

On Thursday university officials and community leaders dedicated the medical school’s new headquarters.

“The College of Medicine, since its start about eight years ago, it’s been in more than seven different buildings. We brought aboard this great workforce, all these educators. We have the students here. But we didn’t have a place for them that was really kind of that central hub,” said Daryll DeWald, the chancellor of the WSU Spokane campus and the university’s executive vice president for health sciences.

The college’s new home is actually the oldest building on the Riverpoint campus, originally occupied by design students in 1996. Then it became the main building on campus for Eastern Washington University’s programs. But in 2020, Eastern moved most of its Spokane programs to the new Catalyst Building across the railroad tracks in the East Sprague district.

DeWald says campus officials realized this was a chance to build that long-awaited home for Medicine without having to create a new building. They secured a $15 million appropriation from the legislature to move walls, add technology and make it a more modern educational space.

“One of the things we know about health professionals, and it may translate into students in general, they learn a great deal by working together, studying together by questioning each other, by forming their own groups,” he said.

A portrait of the late WSU President Elson S. Floyd, for whom the university's medical school was named, hangs in the lobby of the newly-renovated building.
Doug Nadvornick/Spokane Public Radio
A portrait of the late WSU President Elson S. Floyd, for whom the university's medical school was named, hangs in the lobby of the newly-renovated building.

When you enter, you see a large portrait of the namesake of the College of Medicine, the late WSU president, Elson S. Floyd. The picture was donated by the office of Interim Dean James Record.

“He is in the middle of the lobby, greeting everyone who comes in. And for somebody who motivated an entire community, a state, around something so impactful as this college and what it has and what it will do in the future, I just really appreciate the ability to be part of a college that has that as its founding leader,” Record said during Thursday’s ribbon cutting ceremony.

The college admits 80 students each year, all of them Washington residents or with strong ties to the state.

They include third-year student Lensa Moen, a 21-year Spokane resident who worked as a medical technician for 10 years.

“I didn’t mind working with your blood. I did not mind working with your urine,” Moen told a chuckling audience. Sometimes they would even send me your number two and I didn’t mind working with that either.”

But she decided she wanted to work with patients face-to-face, rather than face-to-specimen.

“Choosing the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine was a no-brainer for me because, even though I’m not originally from here, Spokane and Washington are my home and it’s the community I’ve grown to love over the past two decades and it’s the community where I want to serve as a future physician,” Moen said.

The incoming class will be the college’s seventh. Students spend most of their first two years in Spokane. They have the option of being based at WSU’s Tri-Cities, Vancouver or Everett campuses for their clinical training in their third and fourth years.

Spokane campus running out of space

WSU officials say they were fortunate that the timing of EWU’s programs from the Spokane campus allowed them to consider renovating what has been, until now, called the “Phase One” building.

Now, DeWald says WSU is planning a new building for one of the last open spaces on campus. He says it needs more basic lab space as its research portfolio grows. But the next project, he says, will be a facility he calls the “Team Health Education Building.”

“That building will house a lot of our interprofessional education activities, so simulation. It will have, essentially, a virtual hospital type of environment. In addition to that, we will explore different ways to do telehealth education,” he said.

The new building will be dedicated to teaching students how to perform as part of health care teams. DeWald estimates the price tag will be $80 million. Some, he hopes, will come from the legislature and some from private donors.

“We’ve had a number of organizations and individuals that said, ‘We would like to commit to improving the spaces. You got the state allocation, but let’s help. We want to be a partner. We want those students to experience certain things, working with cohorts, collaborating, working with the faculty in a different way than they have, maybe in the past, but really elevate that,’” he said.

DeWald says the university will engage some of Spokane’s health providers as it plans and designs the building, to determine what should be included, both in terms of physical features and educational curriculum.

Doug Nadvornick has spent most of his 30+-year radio career at Spokane Public Radio and filled a variety of positions. He is currently the program director and news director. Through the years, he has also been the local Morning Edition and All Things Considered host (not at the same time). He served as the Inland Northwest correspondent for the Northwest News Network, based in Coeur d’Alene. He created the original program grid for KSFC. He has also served for several years as a board member for Public Media Journalists Association. During his years away from SPR, he worked at The Pacific Northwest Inlander, Washington State University in Spokane and KXLY Radio.