WSU School of Medicine helping develop more home-grown doctors

SPOKANE, Wash. — Healthcare workers across the nation have been strapped over the past 2-years as they battled the pandemic. A big part of that is the need for more people in the medical field, and while it’s been more clear than ever, it’s not a new issue. Local hospitals are working to find solutions, and so are Universities.

Washington State University’s School of Medicine is recruiting new students with the idea of keeping them in Washington when they graduate.

Getting into medical school is already a significant challenge for students with dreams of becoming doctors, and at WSU’s Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine, they’re filtering the application based on credentials and geography.

The local college was founded as a medical school for Washington with a mission to solve challenging health care problems in Washington.

“We are looking for people who grew up in the state of Washington, who come from here, who have ties to the state because all of those service predictors indicate that even if our students graduate and leave for residency and go to another state, they’re going to come back to Washington,” explained Leila Harrison, Senior Associate Dean for Admissions and Student Affairs, WSU College of Medicine.

In order to be accepted, students must either be from Washington, have grown up here, have established residency, or need to have significant ties to Washington. The idea in mind is that even if these students leave the states for residency, they’ll return to practice once they’ve finished their education.

“We’re really strict on that because that is then allied with our mission to hopefully provide physicians in the state,” said Harrison.

They have had 2 graduate classes so far, but the sentiment they’re hearing from those students that did leave the states for residency is that they plan to return.

“I am a first-generation college student. That said, it takes a village, it really does. I have a really, really big village and I wouldn’t be here without those people. So the people who helped me get this far, I would want nothing more than to come back and show them that their efforts were for a purpose,” said Taylor Wintler, WSU College of Medicine student & Gonzaga graduate.

Beyond admitting local students, the University also intends to enroll students like Taylor. That includes those who are first-generation college graduates, those who come from low socioeconomic status backgrounds or come from rural backgrounds. The University believes these students bring a unique and important perspective that will help solve challenging health care problems in Washington.

Wintler is a perfect example of the type of student this school hopes to develop. “I would love to come back to Spokane, join the ranks of the pediatricians who helped me, give back to WSU’s med school, be a preceptor for the classes below me. That would be my goal,” she explained.

The student body is 36% first-generation college graduates, 26% rural, and 55% that come from low socioeconomic status backgrounds. All of these are above the national average in medical schools across the country.

The next cohort of 80 medical students will be graduating in a few weeks and they’re off to residency this summer.

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