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ARCHIVED  March 1, 1997

Wyoming joins consortium for med-school education

SEATTLE, Wash. – At first glance, the Warren G. Magnuson Health Sciences Center at the University of Washington seems an unlikely place to train doctors and health-care professionals for the wilds of rural Wyoming.With 16 miles of corridors, the University of Washington School of Medicine is larger physically than many Wyoming communities, yet it is pioneering new approaches to training doctors and other health professionals who specialize in providing primary care to people in the hinterlands of the Pacific Northwest.
Twenty-five years ago, Washington, Alaska, Montana and Idaho joined in creating a new system of regional medical education to serve all four states. It’s called WAMI, and it uses the University of Washington as the regional medical school, with satellite programs in communities and universities in all four states..
Now Wyoming is joining the consortium, providing a new opportunity for Wyoming medical students and new hopes that many of them will return to Wyoming to practice.
Starting in August 1997, Wyoming’s first 10 medical students will begin their studies at the University of Wyoming, studying the same curriculum as first-year WAMI students at Seattle, Washington State University in Pullman, Montana State University in Bozeman, the University of Alaska in Anchorage and the University of Idaho in Moscow.
“Wyoming has a great opportunity to build a quality first-year medical-education program and to participate in a four-year program with a reputation for excellence,´ said Sylvia Moore, a professor of family practice at the University of Wyoming’s College of Health Sciences and Wyoming’s WAMI medical education coordinator.
With the inclusion of Wyoming, WAMI’s territory includes 27 percent of the land mass of the United States but only 3 percent of the population, said John B. Coombs, M.D., acting dean of the School of Medicine after the death of Dean Philip Fialkow, M.D., in an avalanche in Tibet last fall.
“Wyoming’s affiliation is affirmation of the success of WAMI,” Coombs said at WAMI’s state legislative conference in Seattle. “It’s an idea that works, and it’s also an idea that doesn’t stand still.”
WAMI’s success over its first 25 years is based on several important concepts, according to WAMI officials.
n First, the five states share the cost of medical education, because the costs of establishing medical schools in Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho would be prohibitively expensive. “It is much cheaper to have one medical school in Washington doing this instead of having five separate state medical schools,” Coombs said.
n Second, medical students attend first-year classes in their home states, study in Seattle their second year and then receive their third and fourth-year clinical education in communities throughout the region, including programs that offer experiences in rural and underserved areas. Several Wyoming doctors already have served as mentors for WAMI students in a summer Rural/Underserved Opportunities Program.
n Third, WAMI offers a number of regional programs not only for students but also health professionals, including consulting, research and telemedicine. It attempts to identify and attract prospective medical students even before college, emphasizes minority recruitment and provides support for health professionals in rural community practices.
n Fourth, WAMI offers medical students a “bimodal” medical school – one that excels both in medical research and in training primary-care health professionals. Washington’s medical school was ranked first among primary-care schools and 11th among research-oriented schools by U.S. News & World Report last year.
n Fifth, and perhaps most important to Wyoming, WAMI has a proven track record of training primary-care doctors who return to their home states to practice, or at least remain in the region. Last year, 62 percent of its graduates went to primary-care residencies.
To prepare for WAMI, a floor of the University of Wyoming’s Biochemistry Building is being remodeled to accommodate the first-year medical-education program, a faculty is being assembled, and enthusiasm is building across the state for the new affiliation.
“As the new kid on the block, we are in the building process – literally,” Moore said. “We will be up and running in August.”
WAMI’s partners include not only Wyoming’s College of Health Sciences but also the family-practice residencies in Cheyenne and Casper and dozens of private physicians.
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SEATTLE, Wash. – At first glance, the Warren G. Magnuson Health Sciences Center at the University of Washington seems an unlikely place to train doctors and health-care professionals for the wilds of rural Wyoming.With 16 miles of corridors, the University of Washington School of Medicine is larger physically than many Wyoming communities, yet it is pioneering new approaches to training doctors and other health professionals who specialize in providing primary care to people in the hinterlands of the Pacific Northwest.
Twenty-five years ago, Washington, Alaska, Montana and Idaho joined in creating a new system of regional medical education to serve…

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