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Spokane Teaching Clinic Celebrates Groundbreaking

May 06, 2015

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  • Empire Health Foundation
    Erica Hallock
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Spokane, WA—A groundbreaking celebration on the Washington State University Health Sciences Spokane campus is a step toward construction of a teaching health clinic that will allow medical residents to serve patients while health sciences students from the campus learn alongside them.

The University District Health Clinic, as it will be called, is being built on the southeast edge of campus. It will open by summer 2016. WSU’s Board of Regents approved financing of the building through the sale of up to $16.25 million in general revenue bonds in fall 2014.

The new clinic will house 48 medical residents, most of whom are currently located in the family medicine and internal medicine clinics in the Fifth and Browne Medical Building, which will be replaced as the clinic site by the new teaching clinic. The two clinics served 35,000 low-income patients last year and the new University District Health Clinic is expected to serve a similar population.

WSU is one of the partners of the Spokane Teaching Health Consortium which was formed in fall 2013 to apply for a federal Teaching Health Center grant aimed at growing residency programs in urban and rural communities. The other two partners are Empire Health Foundation and Providence Health Care. The consortium was successful in securing funds for six additional resident positions in Spokane which started in July 2014.

This groundbreaking celebration on the Washington State University Health Sciences Spokane campus Wednesday, May 6, is a step toward construction of a teaching health clinic that will allow medical residents to serve patients while health sciences students from the campus learn alongside them.

Last month, Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell from Washington State joined in a bi-partisan effort with their colleagues to extend the funding for at least two more years, meaning another six residents will start in July 2015 and an additional six in 2016. This is significant since traditional Medicare funding for residency positions has been capped for many years.

“We are very grateful to the WSU Regents for continuing to invest in Spokane,” said WSU Spokane Chancellor Lisa Brown. “WSU’s commitment to the Spokane health sciences campus, as seen by the building of facilities alone, is more than $224 million, a phenomenal investment.”

Washington state has an uneven distribution of residency slots, with nearly 1,500 of the state’s 1,600 existing positions in western Washington, as well as a maldistribution of physicians, with 49 percent practicing in the Seattle area where 29 percent of the population lives.

Prior to the consortium forming, Providence was the sponsoring agency for medical residents in Spokane. “Growing the number of Spokane medical residents, particularly in family and internal medicine, is critical to growing the number of physicians who stay here and practice,” said Elaine Couture, CEO of Providence Health Care.

The clinic will be unique in the country, said Antony Chiang, president of Empire Health Foundation. “The inter-professional aspect of it will allow a patient to enter the clinic with the possibility of being seen by a physician, nurse, pharmacist, or a combination of all in one appointment, and even meet with a physical therapist, social worker or occupational therapist on the spot if that is necessary.”

Eastern Washington University, which shares WSU’s health sciences campus, will have Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy and social work students on the second floor of the 42,000 square foot, two-story building. Medical residents, nurses, pharmacists and WSU students will work together on the first floor.

“EWU is very excited to work with our higher education partners in this outstanding new facility,” said EWU President Mary Cullinan. “The inter-professional learning opportunities will be extraordinary and will greatly benefit Spokane and our region.”