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New WSU med school prescribes a ‘community-based’ approach

  • Written by Kirsten Abel

There’s a new medical school in town (well, in Spokane) and it belongs to Washington State University. 

Self-described as a “community-based” program, the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine is preparing its inaugural class of 60 students to work with medically underserved populations. 

Rebecca Gold, a Woodinville native who attended Wellington Elementary and then the Overlake School, is one of those students.

Rebecca GoldRebecca Gold is one of 60 students in the first ever class at the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine (Photo by Matthew Gold)“It’s been amazing,” Gold said. “I have a ton of faith in what they’re doing.”

The school’s special emphasis on working with rural and underserved populations was one of the reasons Gold wanted to attend the WSU program.

“That was definitely a huge draw for me,” she said. “Almost all medical schools talk about how they want to provide access to medicine for those who don’t have access, but I think the WSU program does a better job than any other school that I’ve seen.”

Each student is assigned a learning community—either Spokane, Everett, the Tri-Cities, or Vancouver, Washington. There, the students spend time working with patients throughout all four years of the program.

During the first two years, students spend four days a week in the classroom and one day a week in a clinic or hospital in Spokane. Then, for one week per term, they work with patients in their assigned city. Gold has already spent a week working with patients in Vancouver.

“There are some schools that spend the first two years almost entirely in the classroom,” she said. “It’s good to integrate what you learn in the classroom to see it in the patient."

For the last two years of the program, the students are stationed more permanently in their learning communities.

“We go in depth during our third and fourth year,” Gold said. “We work with a ton of different types of medicine.” 

Gold initially became interested in medicine after a slight miscommunication at an internship she had at Seattle Children’s Hospital between her junior and senior years at Scripps College. Gold thought she’d be working in data analysis. The hospital, however, assigned her to spend half of her time shadowing a doctor. 

“I didn’t want to turn down the opportunity,” she said. And it’s a good thing she didn’t. “I fell in love with it.” 

After the internship, she overloaded her coursework with medical school prerequisites. Then, she spent the next two years finishing those perquisites and applying to schools. 
The Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine isn’t the only medical school in Spokane. The University of Washington also has a campus that admits 60 medical students per year.
Despite the intense sports rivalries between the two schools, Gold said the medical programs are pretty much exempt from competition.

“They didn’t want the competitive culture between medical students that you get in other programs,” Gold said. “They have a lot of things in place that foster community instead of creating competition.”

The programs share an anatomy lab and collaborate in other ways too. When WSU was launching its medical school government, UW offered guidance.

“The more that we’re able to work with others and collaborate, the better it is for our patients,” Gold said.

For more information about the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine, visit medicine.wsu.edu.

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