As soon as August 2022, Spokane will be getting a new 80,000-square-foot building to host a center for medical education and health sciences as part of the University of Washington School of Medicine-Gonzaga University Regional Health Partnership (RHP). GU and UW will be moving several programs to the new building, representing a new step in the expansion of the partnership and of medical science in Spokane as a whole.
The partnership between the two schools began three years ago with an agreement in the spring of 2016, and a new building was an integral part of the two schools’ larger plan for expansion in Spokane.
“There’s been a lot of collaboration and discussion around a lot of faculty and staff members at both University of Washington and Gonzaga,” said Courtney Law, director of the UW-GU partnership. “Those conversations probably took a couple of years to really get to where we are now.”
The $60 million project is privately funded, leveraging the private-public nature of GU’s partnership with UW in order to eliminate any burden on taxpayers. Construction will take place at 840 E. Spokane Falls Blvd. adjacent to the Patterson Baseball Complex on GU’s campus, and is scheduled to begin this spring.
“The private-public partnership was an opportunity for us to accelerate the project and show the collaborative nature of the two schools and of the Spokane community,” said Dr. Darryl Potyk, the chief of medical education for the regional health partnership. “There’s an opportunity for us to help one another and transform both universities, and we can each bring new things that the other doesn’t have.”
McKinstry, a Seattle-based construction firm that recently doubled the size of its operations in Spokane, will develop, design, construct and manage the new facility. Law said that McKinstry has prioritized making the new building as energy-efficient as possible.
“We’re going to have state-of-the-art spaces,” Potyk said. “The building itself will be a place for very high-tech, state-of-the-art instruction.”
The Schoenberg Building, where the joint medical program is currently held, will be opened for other GU programs in the future once the new building opens. Schoenberg previously hosted GU’s Museum of Native American Art and Culture and master’s of teaching English as a second language program. It is not currently planned to be torn down or replaced.
The new building will also be home to GU’s human physiology department, meaning GU undergraduate students will be able to study in the same space as graduate medical students. While the nursing department will remain in the Tilford Center, this move allows room for further collaboration between the UW School of Medicine and GU’s School of Nursing and Human Physiology in addition to the greater GU community through potential health programming in the future.
“It is my hope that the students will take classes together,” said Vincent Salyers, the dean of the School of Nursing and Human Physiology. “The project will open up great opportunities for cross-pollination … There’s been a desire for many years to share learning spaces.”
The building will have a fourth floor that is currently not planned to be occupied immediately, but may eventually be used for research and expansion of programs. Potyk and Law also pointed to future collaborations with the School of Law and the College of Arts Sciences as areas for the partnership to expand.
Spokane continues to be a place of growth for medical education since the inception of the 2016 agreement. This year was the second year in a row that every medical student accepted to the UW’s regional WWAMI program — a five-state medical education program through UW — indicated Spokane as their first choice. Multiple students who chose Spokane as their first choice were sent to UW’s Seattle campus because of an overflow of candidates.
“It’s a result of all the great faculty and community for these students,” Potyk said. “The building will only continue to foster that growth.”
Since the inception of the partnership, over 220 medical students have attended the campus. The number of applicants looks to increase in the coming years as the opening of the new center looms closer.
“[The McKinstry project] strengthens our partnership and gives everyone something we can point to,” Potyk said. “It can demonstrate to everyone the commitment of our partnership and our commitment to Eastern Washington.”