For the past 50 years, the states of Washington, Alaska, Montana and Idaho, and more recently Wyoming have invested public dollars to stem the shortage of medical doctors in our rural state through the WWAMI program. (Courtesy of the University of Idaho)
WWAMI is the only publicly-supported medical school in Idaho. For the past 50 years, the states of Washington, Alaska, Montana and Idaho, and more recently Wyoming have invested public dollars to stem the shortage of medical doctors in our rural state.
The Idaho Legislature invests in the next generation of physicians by providing tuition assistance for our medical students, who complete all four years of training in the state because it’s in Idaho’s best interest to create more physicians. Currently, we rank 43rd for the number of primary care physicians per capita, and recruiting and retaining doctors here is an all-hands-on-deck situation.
Idaho WWAMI students spend their first two years training in Moscow at the University of Idaho campus. After that, students rotate through dozens of rural Idaho communities, providing much-needed support for health care providers and learning about the needs and rewards that come with practicing in rural communities. I’ve had the privilege of knowing some of the WWAMI students who practice in the Wood River Valley, where I live.
As a former legislator and University of Washington graduate in political science and public administration, I’m especially proud of Idaho’s investment in making medical school accessible to Idaho students through public partnership. The state of Idaho had the foresight to realize how expensive it would be to start and maintain a public medical school, and instead, we partnered with the top-ranked primary care program in the country, the UW School of Medicine.
Rory Cole is starting her third year with Idaho WWAMI with medical clerkships in Hailey, where she was raised. Rory received her undergraduate degree from Johns Hopkins University, and after a gap year, she was able to return to Idaho and attend medical school through WWAMI.
Through Idaho WWAMI, Rory has trained at St. Luke’s Wood River Regional Medical Center. Between her first and second years, she participated in a rural clinical immersion program that connects students with underserved communities. Last summer Rory benefited from a clinical rotation focused on three areas of medicine in Idaho that especially need more physicians: family medicine, pediatrics, and psychology. If you spent some time this summer at our local hospital, you probably met Rory doing her patient rounds.
Rory’s work ethic and focus make her exactly the kind of doctor Idaho needs more of, and I’m thrilled she plans to return to the Wood River Valley to serve rural patients after she finishes medical school and residency. I’m definitely going to sign up to be her patient seven years from now.
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