Alaska medical student praises WWAMI program
March 21, 2019
In 1971, five students enrolled in the first medical school in Alaska. The class, at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks, doubled the next year and, by 1989, had twenty participants each year.
Now, nearly fifty years later, the WWAMI program accounts for almost 12% of the entire physician population in the state.
WWAMI, Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana, and Idaho, is part of the University of Washington Medical School, considered the number one primary care medical school in the country. WWAMI supports programs in the states that can’t offer medical schools through their own university system.
Alexandra “Alex” Davis is a WWAMI student who has been at PeaceHealth Medical Group Primary Care Ketchikan and Prince of Wales during parts of her first three years of medical school. Most recently September 2018 to March 2019.
“All my life I’ve wanted to be a physician in my community where I can take care of my friends and family.” She said recently. “That would be an incredible life.
“I grew up in Girdwood and that love for my community fueled my exploration of medicine initially. Further experience with Emergency Medical Services, search and rescue, and ski patrol confirmed my interests.”
Originally the first two years of medical school were in Alaska with the final two years in Seattle but, as of 2017, almost all four years of medical school can be accomplished in state.
WWAMI accepts twenty Alaskans each year into the medical school now based in Anchorage. The first two years are classroom instruction, followed by two years of clinical rotations in the WWAMI states depending on the specialty interests of the students.
“The WWAMI program is unique,” said Alex, “it allows almost all four years of medical school to be within Alaska. Since there are healthcare challenges unique to Alaska, this had significant appeal to be better prepared for a career in rural Alaska.”
Of the 28 Alaskans accepted in medical schools across the country in 2019, twenty of them were accepted to the WWAMI program.
The State of Alaska has a loan program that offers repayment forgiveness for Alaskan students in exchange for a commitment to practice within the state for at least three years, and up to five years, depending on rural or urban locations. If a student does not return to practice within Alaska, they must repay the state in full for their loans with additional interest. The return rate for 2018 is 61%, Alex is definite about her plan to return.
Alex has one more year of medical school and then will attend a three-year family medicine residency, ideally in Anchorage. Then, it’s home to Girdwood.
Alex said she knows she would have found a way to go to medical school but the WWAMI program was an enormous benefit. “Without the WWAMI program, it will be even more difficult for Alaskans who want to be doctors to return to their communities.”
Source of News: