Healthy workforce, healthy businesses

In Washington state, there is a need to educate more doctors who will practice here

A business’s most important asset is its employees — people. And healthy people are happier, more productive employees that make a business better. The problem is, Washington’s employees sometimes have trouble accessing even basic primary healthcare.

In the state of Washington, there is an overwhelming need to educate more doctors who will practice in Washington and begin to address the huge disparity and equity issues associated with access to healthcare providers for many communities — including our own. Clark County has just 6.5 primary care physicians for every 10,000 residents. And we are not alone. Half of Washington counties have 10 or fewer physicians per 10,000 people.

King County accounts for about one-third of our state’s population, yet it’s home to almost half of Washington’s doctors. A low physician per capita ratio limits access, extends patient wait time to see a doctor and may diminish opportunities for early detection and attention to health issues, including behavioral health issues.

Washington State University’s Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine was established to respond to our state’s need for more physicians. The university is asking the Washington Legislature for $14.4 million over the 2019 – 21 biennium to provide for 20 additional Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine students in each of those years — taking those entering classes from 60 to 80 students.

The Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine is a community-based medical school. Third- and fourth-year medical students go to one of 85 partnering hospitals and clinics around the state to train. Legacy-Emanuel Hospital and Health Center, Legacy-Good Samaritan Hospital and Medical Center, and Legacy Salmon Creek Hospital are three such partners. Our hope is that some of the doctors who train with Legacy will remain with us to provide better access to family practice, OB-GYN, internal medicine, general surgery and psychiatry physicians here at home.

Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine students are OUR students — so far 100 percent are from the state of Washington. They come from underserved rural and urban areas across the state. The student body is diverse:

  • 28 percent are first-generation college students
  • 32 percent are students of color
  • 38 percent are from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds
  • 58 percent are women

With their exceptional medical training, life experience and personal backgrounds, these doctors will relate to their patients like no other and serve their communities well.

Without more doctors, residents of Washington will continue to struggle with access to healthcare. Your employees and colleagues may take more sick days, experience delays in receiving important healthcare or travel long distances to receive appropriate care.

At Legacy, our fundamental responsibility is to improve the wellness of everyone we touch, to empower people to live healthier lives and to create a legacy that truly lives on. Join Legacy in doing what’s right for our employees, our patients, our communities, our world. Join us in urging our Washington state legislators to support educating 20 more WSU-trained doctors each year.