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Idaho Looks To Expand Slots For Homegrown Med Students At UW

Idaho doesn't have its own medical school, but works through a UW partnership.

Idaho lawmakers are considering a proposal to make more room for Idaho students in a University of Washington med school program.

Idaho doesn’t have its own medical school, so the state instead works through a UW partnership known as WWAMI. It stands for Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho -- the five states that participate in the program.

The proposal would increase the number of slots for Idaho med students from 30 to 35 next year. It could go up to 40 in two years.

Dr. Mary Barinaga, the assistant dean in Idaho told lawmakers that about half the Idaho students who attend the UW program return to Idaho. Idaho suffers from one of the worst doctor shortages in the nation -- especially in rural areas.

Changes in the WWAMI curriculum will have students spend less time in class in Seattle. Idaho students will instead do all their basic courses at the University of Idaho in Moscow and be placed in clinical settings sooner. They’ll go to Seattle for specific clinical instruction, like in the Level 1 trauma center at Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center.

Idaho lawmakers asked about the effects of the dispute between the University of Washington and Washington State University over WSU’s plan to create its own medical school. Barinaga said there would likely be little effect. She said opportunities opened up for Idaho students in the Pullman-Moscow area when WSU moved eastern Washington medical students to the Spokane campus.