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A Religious Reason Not to Create a WSU School of Medicine

UW WSU warThe Seattle Times reports that some legislators are worried that the proposed new WSU School of Medicine will be, in effect, a religious school limited by its association with Spokane’s Sacred Heart Hospital. 

Sacred Heart, of course is required to limit its practice in areas of reproductive health, abortion, physician assisted suicide and other areas determined by the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church.   Of course these sorts of patient care are  guaranteed to all patients by our state laws. 
This new controversy illustrates the problem of creating a medical school with limited resources limited not only to the choice of available hospitals but to the environment to be competitive with the UW School.  That school, the UW SoM is ranked at or near the top of all medical schools and that rarefied rank is particularly true of the rural and primary care programs. The benefit to a student from Eastern Washington, especially a student who intends to practice there, is immense.
 The usual answer to any political question is to follow the money.  Who would benefit from this new school?  No evidence has been offered that the number of degrees will be more than can be offered by the UW with its far greater resources.
I suggest the answer is a classic one … political pork. A new campus means buildings and administration. Some local people will benefit even if the students lose out on the access to the much greater resources offered not only in Seattle, but by the multistate WWAMI program.  
I am mystified by the lack of discussion of where the money would come from to create this school. Some of what I have read suggests the WSU thinks a medical school will pay for itself in grant money. That would be wonderful except that it is never true. The National Institutes of Health pays only about 50% of the indirect costs of research and those research grants are very difficult to get even with  already massive research facilities like those at UW, the Hutch and the Allen Institute.
Unless WSU has a mystery donor, this is not a realistic dream.
But wait, there is more. The proposed use of Sacred Heart has an issue that is even more important than the role of the Catholic Church.  Sacred Heart is a good local hospital but an outstanding medical school can only work if it also has outstanding hospitals representing a diversity of expertise.  This is not only important to graduating raw MDs.  After medical school, doctors train as residents and fellows.  These residents and fellows from a WSU Medical School will, one hopes, decide to practice where they complete their training.  It is hard to see Sacred Heart filling the role of the UW Hospital, the VA, Harborview, the Cancer Care Alliance, Childrens, and others affiliated with the UW.  Money is an issue here too.  Creating those kinds of hospitals  will costs 100s of millions of dollars well beyond the means of WA state.
Are there local donors? If so they should come forth.

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