Spokane is about to benefit from the endless hours of classroom-based learning, clinical studies and lab experiences completed by the inaugural 60 students of University of Washington School of Medicine and Gonzaga Regional Health Partnership. After 18 months in the Foundations phase of medical school, many of these students have solidified their goals as future physicians, including their desires to stay in the Spokane region.
“Being in Spokane has made me so optimistic of the future of medicine,” said student Justin Thompson, 31. “There’s something special about this campus.”
Thompson also said that he “doesn’t ever intend on leaving Washington state” and has decided to study rural medicine. Thompson won the Shikany Foundation Inspiration Award at the Dec. 11 “Transition to Clerkship” ceremony hosted by the UWSOM-Gonzaga Regional Health Partnership in the Hemmingson Ballroom.
Bella Dahlgren, 24, also speaks highly of Spokane’s impact on her medical studies.
“Spokane is a great place to grow that passion,” said Dahlgren, who wants a future in primary care. “The physicians in Spokane have an exceptional quality.”
She delivered the student keynote speech at the Transitions to Clerkship ceremony, advocating for meeting challenges with optimism, gentleness and maintaining togetherness, emphasizing that “individual success does not have to come at the expense of another’s failure.”
Thompson and Dahlgren, as well as Jason Dixon, a 29-year-old area native, all took part in specialty preceptorships in focused field studies such as radiology or anesthesiology. The three medical students spoke highly of their varied preceptors who shared expertise in order to train them.
“Having this [partnership] in Spokane is so important to bring people out here,” said Thompson.
Beyond what Spokane has to offer, the three were thoughtful on their experiences as medical students on Gonzaga’s campus.
“One gift about being at Gonzaga is that we have this building,” Dahlgren said. “Schoenberg has been ours, but as a group of UW in Spokane, this is our place. We have a sense of community in this space.”
The UW School of Medicine in Seattle is distributed between different locations on campus, which makes the feeling of community harder to establish.
“We feel like we’re treated as Gonzaga grad students, which is great because they’re both great institutions,” said Dahlgren, who graduated from Loyola Marymount University.
Students in the partnership have ZagCards and UW student cards, meaning they too get free tickets for Gonzaga basketball games and swipes to Sodexo services if they wish.
“Being on a campus that focuses on the whole person, in their education, on their focusing on developing people, is a good reminder of what it means to be a good physician. It’s a good place to learn medicine in that context,” said Thompson, who graduated from UW Bothell. “People are even willing to sacrifice their grade, their time, everything they have to help each other through. To me, that is everything that healthcare and medicine needs.”
Instructors such as Dr. Kevin Measor and Dr. William Sayres involved in Foundations were attributed to installing the sense of community beyond the purpose of physical sciences.
“The culture here is amazing,” Dixon said. “Within all the categories that we fit into: UW Med, Spokane, Gonzaga. The atmosphere is very inclusive and empowering. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so individually close to such a big group of people in my life.”
Dixon, who has lived in the Spokane region his whole life and graduated from Eastern Washington University in 2011, says the program has been valuable for the development that can’t be taught.
“This is the first class that came together on this campus that is now making that transition from the classroom to the clinical environment,” Chief For Medical Education for UWSOM- Gonzaga Regional Health Partnership Darryl Potyk, said. “Seeing that growth, and having seen them here in the classroom, and then the opportunity to see them up in hospitals and clinics where they really make that transition to taking care of patients, and differentiating themselves in terms of their future career— that has been a really wonderful thing to watch.”
“The culture we’ve created about community and togetherness has helped shape how I will practice,” said Dahlgren.
The students of the UWSOM- Gonzaga Regional Health Partnership have now completed the first years of physical sciences required in the Foundations curriculum and will soon begin on-site clerkships and electives. They will eventually interview in 2020 for residencies to become practicing doctors, and some will practice locally.
“This group in particular has been wonderful in terms of their idealism,” said Potyk. “They haven’t lost it. They continue to want to save the world.”
Libby Kamrowski is Editor-in-Chief. Follow her on Twitter: @libbykamrowski.