Medical School

I attended a town hall meeting with two of my elected legislative representatives a while back. Only two of the three who represent me were in attendance. The absent was my State Senator, Dan Foreman.

He beat me in 2016 (Trump-Hillary), then lost in 2018, probably because he couldn’t control his temper. But he bounced back. Maybe he’s figured out public interactions don’t suit him. That’s just Idaho Republican politics.

Instead, I want to talk about another of my representatives.

Representative Brandon Mitchell voiced an interesting idea. It’s an old, tired, worn idea that might have some credibility, given Idaho’s recent explosive growth. But I doubt he has much understanding of the history of this idea.

He suggested it might be time for Idaho to be considering establishing its own medical school. This is a guy who represents a district where there are currently 80 medical students residing. All are tax-paying voters, I presume.

Idaho shares in a consortium with the University of Washington School of Medicine. That consortium is called WWAMI, which stands for the participating states: Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana, and Idaho. The states shell out cash to UWSOM to make medical school seats available for their residents. Applicants must prove their Idaho residency, then get charged in state tuition for their four years of training. Idaho taxpayers shell out the difference between tuition and the full cost of the education.

This program started back in the 1970’s. Full disclosure, I am a graduate of this program, back in the stone age. We puked and bled our patients.

But Representative Mitchell’s idea might possibly serve Idaho if we had any kind of sticking power.

But it would definitely not serve his district. Maybe he’s seeing the bigger picture. I don’t really know. He doesn’t respond to my emails.

I just drove across South Dakota. It has less population than Idaho and its own very decentralized medical school. It proudly claims to produce doctors for their rural needs. I googled the heck out of their budget documents but could not find what South Dakota taxpayers fork over to fund this program.

They must be happy with it.

Wyoming wasn’t. They had a medical school for a while but dropped it to become the second “W” in the WWAMI program. It was too expensive, and they weren’t getting the product they needed. States should be critical about how they spend their money and pay attention to what they get for the dollar. Wyoming was and joined WWAMI.

Idaho should be critical too. But what do you count?

Idaho’s current yearly funding for WWAMI is about $7.5M. That supports 40 Idaho medical students a year. These students also pay their share of their tuition coming to $55K a year per.

For South Dakota medical students it’s only $32K a year.

You can see that the numbers are piling up here. And we haven’t even discussed the cost of a cadaver lab.

Facilities are the capital costs. But, if you build them, maybe they will come.

Remember, Idaho already has a private, for-profit medical school subsidized by Idaho taxpayers because of a cheap, 60-year lease agreement made by our previous governor.

Idaho College of Medicine is down in Meridian, churning out Doctors of Osteopathy. Their tuition is significantly less than UWSOM. They seem to be doing great. Why isn’t this the model we should be following? Capitalism solves all public needs through the invisible hand, right?

Only WWAMI graduates are required to come back to Idaho, under current law. Doesn’t that solve our shortage? Unless we keep driving them away, maybe.

Will Idaho doctors be from UWSOM taxpayer supported, or ICOM, the free market variety?

These are twisted concepts that require vision.

Representative Mitchell’s idea to build an Idaho medical school will send 80 of his voters to Boise. And all the funding that goes along with them.

Who is he working for? Not his district.

About ddxdx

A Family physician, former county coroner and former Idaho State Senator
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