School Rivalry

The latest salvo in the fight over medical education in Spokane; plus, a Washington group takes on immigration

New Alliances

A few days after the University of Washington trounced Washington State University in the Apple Cup, the two rivals both made big announcements about their diverging plans for MEDICAL EDUCATION in Spokane.

Since an agreement in October dissolving the longtime partnership between WSU and the UW School of Medicine — with WSU pursuing its own med school — UW is now considering a new partner: Gonzaga University.

"We've always done these in partnership with other universities," UW president Michael Young says. "It turns out to be very effective."

Many of the details are a long way from being decided, but theoretically Gonzaga could help handle the first 18 months of UW medical education in Spokane, before students begin their clinical rotations.

Gonzaga already has a nursing school. The question, Gonzaga President Thayne McCulloh says, is whether a partnership with the UW School of Medicine would be a good fit for Gonzaga's mission and whether it would be supported by the Spokane community.

"It didn't naturally occur to us that we could play a role in this particular space, until the University of Washington approached me and said, 'We'd like to talk to you about it,'" McCulloh says. "To look at an opportunity of possibly partnering with a world-class medical education institution is not something we can just ignore."

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, Republican state Sen. Michael Baumgartner and Democratic state Rep. Marcus Riccelli announced bipartisan sponsorship of bills to pave the way for WSU's proposed medical school in Spokane.

"We both feel this is hugely important to our community," Riccelli says. "This made sense for two members of the majority party and either side of the legislature to simultaneously drop a policy bill."

The first step is changing a nearly century-old state statute giving UW exclusive rights to teaching medical education. The second is budgeting for the $2.5 million needed for accreditation for WSU's medical school. To Baumgartner, that's a drop in the bucket of the state's $37 billion budget.

"I've spent more time as a legislator on this issue than anything else in my four-year career," Baumgartner says. "I'd expect we'd have broad support." (DANIEL WALTERS)

Sanctuary No More?

A proposed citywide initiative filed last week would repeal a local ordinance that currently prohibits Spokane police officers and other public employees from inquiring about a person's IMMIGRATION STATUS.

The ordinance, proposed by Spokane City Council President Ben Stuckart, passed in late October by a 5-2 vote and went into effect this month. The ordinance codified current police policies, which instruct officers not to take action on individuals' immigration status.

"I feel like our compassionate nature is being taken advantage of by illegals, mostly from Mexico, but from all over the world," initiative sponsor Jackie Murray, a truck driver in Spokane, tells the Inlander. "Our immigration laws are there for a purpose and the purpose is to protect American citizens from this kind of thing — disease, indigent people and criminal sorts. ... The city council has no right to put us at risk."

The initiative petition was drafted by members of Respect Washington, a group that has tried for years to gather enough signatures for a statewide ballot measure that would toughen immigration enforcement. Respect Washington spokesman Craig Keller says he hopes the proposed measure will remove incentives for undocumented immigrants moving to Spokane.

The initiative is currently awaiting approval by the city attorney. Once it's assigned a ballot number and title, the measure will need about 3,000 signatures in order to appear on the November 2015 ballot. (DEANNA PAN)

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About The Authors

Deanna Pan

Deanna Pan is a staff writer at the Inlander, where she covers social justice, state politics and health care. In her cover stories, she's written about mass shooting survivors, NGRI patients and honey bees...

Daniel Walters

A lifelong Spokane native, Daniel Walters is the Inlander's senior investigative reporter. But he also reports on a wide swath of other topics, including business, education, real estate development, land use, and other stories throughout North Idaho and Spokane County.He's reported on deep flaws in the Washington...