WSU takes ‘historic step’ toward first class of medical students

Vancouver campus to add associate dean to bridge gap between medical school & local care providers

John Tomkowiak

From Vancouver to Pullman and places in between, the Washington State University system is gearing up to welcome its first class of students to the WSU Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine (ESFCOM).

Late last month, the medical school was granted accreditation by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU) for the doctor of medicine program that it will be offering.

“This is another historic step in our commitment to educating physicians who will practice in Washington’s underserved communities,” said WSU President Kirk Schulz in a press release. “I’m grateful to the NWCCU and to our internal team that continues its outstanding work as we prepare to welcome our inaugural class of medical students in August.”

According to Founding Dean John Tomkowiak, MD, MOL, the accreditation process was a rigorous one, requiring enormous effort from faculty, staff and university administration.

“The team effort that resulted in this accomplishment is exemplary of the kind of collaboration the college has received from the beginning,” said Tomkowiak. “This is a major step that allows the university to confer the MD degree to graduating medical school students.”

The NWCCU’s approval for WSU to include a Doctor of Medicine degree under its accreditation is effective in August when the charter class of medical students arrives on campus. The college is in the process of interviewing candidates and offers of acceptance will go out later this month.

The school’s community-based model adopted by WSU calls for students to spend their first two years doing mostly academic and laboratory work in Spokane. Students would then be assigned to WSU campuses in Spokane, Tri-Cities, Vancouver or Everett for two years of clinical study.

“It feels good. It feels real in a way that it hasn’t before,” said WSU Vancouver Chancellor Mel Netzhammer, when asked about the medical school’s progress. “Our campus has been participating in the interviews of all of the applicants over the last few weeks, and we’ve talked about WSU Vancouver and the Vancouver area and if they (medical students) chose to do their service to the community here, what that might look like for them. So we have been actively engaged in real aspects, working out the details of what it will look like.”

Netzhammer also said the university is in the process of hiring an associate dean of the medical school who will reside at WSU Vancouver. That person, he said, will help bridge the gap between ESFCOM and local care providers.

“We have been increasing our partnerships in the healthcare sector and in the medical community,” said Netzhammer. “This [new medical school] gives us a very concrete, real way to extend that partnership in a way that is beneficial for our campus, to the medical community in our area and to Washington.”

WSU is currently requesting $10.8 million in the state 2017-19 operating budget to support classes of 60 first-year medical students and 60 second-year students.

Community hosts sought for medical students

Washington State University is currently looking for hosts in Vancouver to welcome, support and orient medical students to the community during six weeks over a two-year period beginning in September.

While studying for their first two years at WSU Spokane, students will spend six individual weeks in the city where they will be located in their third and fourth years. Individuals and families are sought to help broaden students’ connections and understanding of their communities during those weeks.

Since Spokane students will already have housing, only hosts in Everett, the Tri-Cities and Vancouver will provide housing.

Residents are being sought to host during the following dates: Sept, 3-9, 2017; Nov. 26-Dec. 2, 2017; March 25-31, 2018; Aug. 19-25, 2018; Nov. 11-17, 2018; and March 24-30, 2019.

For more information, email community hosting coordinator Kyle Holbrook at

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