The Future of Healthcare: Coug Med Students Meet Legislators

A group of third and fourth year medical students from the WSU Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine sat down with local state representatives and appointed officials in Vancouver yesterday evening to share their experiences training in Southwest Washington.

As a community-based medical school, WSU medical students spend their first two years at the WSU Health Sciences Spokane campus then transition to finish their final two years training in clinical settings throughout Washington spoking from educational hubs at WSU campuses in Everett, the Tri-Cities, Spokane, and Vancouver. Students are assigned to a specific hub when they are admitted, often times reflecting the region they grew up in.

In their introductions to the legislators, several students noted that they had not grown up with family members in medical careers but were exposed to the profession by medical complications within their family. When the time came to apply to WSU, one student recalled the admissions process being different than other colleges. “Nothing felt as warm as WSU, everyone was rooting for you through the interview process.”

Students also shared how the community-based model has affected their specialties in medicine. One student was completing a primary care rotation at a local clinic where a typical physician sees 25 patients a day. They shared that while it’s exhausting, “I enjoy seeing and talking to patients back to back, which is why I decided to pursue family medicine.”

A student who is a veteran talked about their experience working in a team environment during their military service and how it made them interested in pursuing a specialty in radiology, where doctors typically work in teams to care for patients. The student also shared that students in the WSU College of Medicine are encouraged to work together, compared with other colleges where class rankings are used and students are competing against each other.

When asked by a legislator about the students’ interest in practicing medicine in rural communities, one student shared that she recently completed a rotation at a clinic in Elma, Washington that opened her eyes to rural health care. “The patients make you feel like you’re making a difference.” Another student, who grew up in Pacific County, shared that she went to California for her undergraduate education to get away from her small town. Now that she’s returned to the state to pursue a career as a physician, she expects to end up back in her hometown at some point in her career.

The roundtable conversation resumes a series of events that WSU convened to connect medical students with policymakers prior to the pandemic.

The state Legislature first granted WSU authority to establish a medical college in 2015 and the inaugural class was seated in 2017. The inaugural class has since graduated and many of its students are finishing their third year of residency and will be entering the workforce as the first Coug docs this year.