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From the VP: Exciting opportunities in Spokane

When you think about where the University of Washington is making an impact, Spokane might not be the first place that comes to mind. You might instead picture our extensive west side purple and gold presence, particularly on our Seattle, Bothell and Tacoma campuses. However, the UW actually has a long history in the Lilac City. From the early 1970s when the UW School of Medicine secured a grant to start the WWAMI program and began clinical rotations in Spokane, to today when a cohort of 60 students complete their Foundations Phase in Spokane each year, the UW community has been living, learning and serving the Inland Northwest for over 50 years.

You might be asking — particularly if you live on the west side of the state — what makes Spokane so attractive?  Well, affordability is one answer. Despite being the 2nd largest city in Washington state, the cost of living in Spokane is estimated to be 37% lower than in Seattle and although the Spokane housing market has risen steeply over the last 18 months, the median home price is still $400,000 less than the Emerald City. Throw in shorter commute times and access to fantastic restaurants, arts and entertainment and the great outdoors, it’s easy to see the appeal. Beyond livability metrics, Spokane leaders are cultivating a growing life sciences research ecosystem that is on track to reach $2.5 billion in the next ten years. In the last six years alone, Spokane has experienced a 50% increase in NIH research dollars.

Mirroring the growth Spokane is experiencing, the UW is also growing its footprint in the city. Earlier this summer, I had a chance to tour the new UW-GU Health Partnership building.  When finished, over 600 Gonzaga and UW students will utilize the four-story, 90,000 square-foot building. These students will be the next generation of doctors, nurses and health care workers and technicians serving communities in eastern Washington and across our state. Despite the ongoing challenges of the pandemic, construction continues to be on schedule and is expected to finish ahead of time in May 2022.

The new space will not only serve our medical students in Spokane but will also open up opportunities for other UW departments to locate important regional research and programming on the eastern side of the state. The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), for example, is developing a program focused on community health metrics, disparities and drivers that would be based in Spokane. Although our 2022 Legislative agenda is still being fleshed out, securing funding from the state to support IHME Spokane will be among the requests. And I’m confident that more UW programs will follow in the coming years.

The University of Washington is committed to our entire state and dedicated to expanding access to education, spurring innovation and meeting the needs of patients and communities across eastern Washington and beyond. As President Cauce always says, it is our aim to not simply be the University OF Washington, but also to be the University FOR Washington.