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Ground broken for WSU medical school in Spokane

By Nicholas K. Geranios
Associated Press / October 6, 2011

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SPOKANE, Wash.—Officials broke ground Wednesday on a new medical school building at Washington State University's Spokane campus.

The $70 million building is intended to produce more doctors for Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho will also be the new home of a consolidated Washington State University College of Pharmacy.

Medical students from the five states will take classes in the new building as part of the WWAMI medical education program headquartered at the University of Washington, the region's only medical school.

Students in the Spokane program will take their first year of medical school in Spokane, their second year in Seattle, and third and fourth years at Spokane hospitals. The goal is to eventually have all four years of medical training in Spokane.

State Sen. Michael Baumgartner, R-Spokane, said the facility will help solve the region's physician shortage by producing 120 graduates a year. The school will also boost the local economy, as the health care industry is already one of the city's top employers.

"Right now, the only regional medical school in Washington is in Seattle," Baumgartner said. "This new facility will go a long way toward helping us meet the educational demand for students in our state who want to enter the medical field."

The Legislature earlier this year allocated $35 million for the 125,000-square foot Biomedical and Health Sciences Building, about half the funding needed. Washington State University and Spokane-area political and civic leaders will seek the rest of the funding from the Legislature and private donors.

The new building will provide classrooms and office space for faculty and students of the WWAMI program. WSU's College of Pharmacy, which is now split between Pullman and Spokane, will also consolidate its offices and lab space in the new building. Pharmacy students will no longer take their first two years in Pullman and last two in Spokane.

The building will sit on land that once served as a railroad yard on the Riverpoint Campus, which is just east of downtown. About 3,000 students attend classes at Riverpoint offered by WSU and Eastern Washington University.