Henry Mroch is a Spokane nephrologist who, for the last two-and-a-half years, has been networking with other Inland Northwest physicians as part of the Washington Alliance of Teaching Physicians to publicize the acute, and growing, need for more doctors in the state. In an August op-ed he co-authored for the Seattle Times, he wrote: "Outside of King County, the physician supply is simply inadequate. ... The solution is straightforward: Establish an additional medical school in Washington."
So, we kind of thought we were getting a medical school when the second-year medical students could finally train here...
Spokane does not have a medical school. You can't write to it, you can't call it, you can't go there and park your car, you can't send it a letter because it doesn't exist. It's all these disjointed pieces that haven't come together.
A lot has been written about the shortage of physicians — from family doctors to specialists. You arrived for this interview straight from the ICU. How serious is the shortage for someone like you, who's walking those halls every day?
I think we are in the emergency room, and we need help. Once all this gets started, the benefits will not be felt immediately. If the first class of the Washington State University School of Medicine matriculates in 2017, when does the first class graduate? It's the class of '21. Now I'm starting to feel old. The clock keeps ticking, and the calendar keeps flipping whether we do it or not.
What's the next step?
The assumption is that you would need to buy property, dig a hole, build a building, run plumbing, run electrical wires. That is simply not the case. Everything is already here. It's just a matter of amalgamating it. We have the first-year faculty available, WSU has sponsored that through time. I think the UW deserves a lot of credit for bringing the Spokane medical education community to the point where something like this is even possible. They deserve a lot of credit. But moving forward, and that is a decision beyond me, the UW can't be all things to all people. They have these WWAMI sites all over, that's great. We don't discredit that. But we need more.
Spokane has battled a bit of an inferiority complex over the years. Are we really good enough to have a medical school?
I think we'll have the best one. You know, why not? You've got a medical school in Vermillion, South Dakota, which is population I-don't-know. They have to send most of their students away to Minneapolis and other places because they don't have all the stuff there, but by golly, they have a medical school. This is a place that has everything it needs, but we need to put a virtual shell around it and give it a name.
INTERVIEW COMPILED AND EDITED ANNE McGREGOR