As we reported earlier this week, Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter showed his support to Idaho’s medical educators and doctors by including money for additional access to med school.
Otter’s budget proposal includes funding for five additional seats at the University of Washington Medical School, the WWAMI program. That would expand the opportunity for Idaho med school students from 20 slots to 25. Otter’s proposal also includes $109,000 for Boise’s internal medical residency.
Idaho doesn’t have its own medical school. Instead, the state pays the difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition for 20 Idaho med students each year to attend the University of Washington. Another eight slots are available at the University of Utah. That’s been the solution to Idaho’s lack of a med school since the 1970s. But since the WWAMI program was created, Idaho’s population has more than doubled.
The need for doctors in Idaho is apparent in data. As we reported last fall, Idaho has fewer doctors per capita than every state in the country except Mississippi. Plus, 42 percent of Idaho’s physicians are 55 or older.
Currently, Idaho spends about $5 million each year to pay for participation in WWAMI and Idaho’s various residency programs. University of Washington’s vice dean for regional affairs Suzanne Allen says medical educators in the state are very pleased that Gov. Otter recognized Idaho’s physician shortage, and the need for educational support.
“Medical education is a pipeline,” says Allen. In order to function, residency programs and medical school programs need to work in concert, she says.
Still, Gov. Otter’s budget is only a suggestion. State legislators have final say.
Idaho’s doctor shortage, and Gov. Otter’s financial support for expanding med school opportunities is the subject of a segment on tonight’s Idaho Reports on Idaho Public Television. Tune in at 8:00 p.m. MT/PT, Sunday at 10:30 a.m. MT/PT or listen Sunday evening at 7:00 p.m. on Boise State Public Radio.