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August 2013


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Changes in the WWAMI Landscape


The UW School of Medicine is the sponsoring institution for WWAMI, the five-state regional medical education program for Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho. WAMI is a 41-year partnership (Wyoming joined in 1996 as the second “W”) providing high-quality, cost-effective medical education through partnerships with Washington State University, the University of Wyoming, the University of Alaska, Montana State University and the University of Idaho. Suzanne Allen, M.D., MPH, Vice Dean for Regional Affairs, discusses recent changes within the WWAMI landscape, including the second-year pilot in Spokane, the expanded class of 2017 and more.

The E-13 medical students are part of the largest entering class in WWAMI history. Can you explain the growth?

The legislatures in Idaho and Montana both approved expansion of their respective WWAMI classes during the legislative sessions this year. Both states have physician workforce shortages and anticipate even greater needs for physicians as more patients receive coverage under the Affordable Care Act and as the current workforce retires. The E-13 class will have 30 Montana students and 25 Idaho students, bringing the total class size to 235.

The WWAMI Spokane second-year pilot launches this year. Can you tell us more? 

The Spokane second-year pilot is allowing the UWSOM to try teaching the second-year curriculum in a different way. Students have volunteered to participate in this exciting opportunity. There will be 19 students, including 15 who did their first year in Spokane, two in Pullman and two in Montana.  The courses will be taught using active learning modalities. This means students will be responsible for learning material before coming to class and class time will be spent applying what students learned to a case or problem. There are four “clinical guides” who will teach students most of the time with other faculty teaching as needed. 

It was recently announced that this is the last year that first-year students will study at the WWAMI site at WSU-Pullman — and that the first-year WWAMI Spokane program will expand by 20 students in the 2014–2015 academic year. What motivated these changes?

The State of Idaho expanded the Idaho WWAMI class by five students for E-13 and would like to continue to expand the class as funds are available. Also, Washington State University is consolidating all of their health sciences programs on the WSU Spokane campus. Moving the WSU Pullman students to Spokane will allow for the continued expansion of the Idaho WWAMI class. The Idaho WWAMI program will continue as it currently does, working with the University of Idaho and WSU Pullman faculty.

As a member of the School’s Curriculum Renewal Committee, can you tell us how the work of this committee will impact WWAMI? 

The curriculum renewal process started by reviewing the current curriculum — what is working well and what can be improved. The process continued with the development of the values of the UWSOM curriculum. The general principles or themes that will carry throughout the four years of medical school will be: primary care, scientific discovery, health equity, ethics and professionalism, quality and safety, communication and interprofessionalism, diversity and life-long learning.  The current model in discussion has the curriculum moving to a three-phase system: a scientific foundations phase, a clinical foundations phase, and a career preparation and scholarship phase.    


Q&A With SAID Volunteer and Pediatrician Jane Lester, M.D. ’86, Res. ’90

Jane Lester, M.D. and students

Jane Lester, M.D. ’86, Res. ’90, talks about why she volunteers with the UW School of Medicine Alumni Association’s Student-Alumni Information Days (SAID) program. SAID is designed to provide students with the opportunity to casually meet practicing physicians in the Seattle area in specialties that they, too, are interested in. It encourages students to ask questions about life as a physician.

What do you enjoy most about hosting SAID events?
I love meeting students because they are so fresh and enthusiastic and curious and motivated! I enjoy sharing my love of pediatrics and my dedication to work-life balance. We have wonderful conversations about how to balance being a doctor and a parent, being a genuine contributor to one’s practice, while enjoying a family and not burning out.

How many years have you participated in SAID?

I've participated in SAID dinners for between 10 and 15 years. Once or twice a year we have three or four students over for a meal. My husband and my daughters, now 19 and 25, usually participate, and we always enjoy them.

What do students want to know about life as a physician?

The students are always engaged and grateful for the candid conversation and the connection we make. We talk about autonomy, night call, hospital rounds, income, burnout, student loan debt, specialty practice, residency, fellowships, role models and more. I learn as much from them—about the current state of medical education — as they learn from me. 

What do you tell students about how you came into medicine?
I always let them know I came to medicine through the back door. I earned a liberal arts degree and worked as a middle-school math teacher and PE teacher-coach for three years, and then changed course to attend the UW School of Medicine. I trained at Seattle Children’s and have worked as a primary-care pediatrician for 23 years at the Everett Clinic. I knew I would be a pediatrician because I've always loved spending time with kids — as a piano teacher, camp counselor, babysitter and tutor. I knew I wanted a family so I took a half-time job, and it's been a wonderful way to blend work and family.

Are there any questions that students consistently ask?

Many students ask if I get bored seeing nothing but colds and ear infections all day. I tell them a typical day includes a dozen or more well checks, where I talk about healthy eating, sleeping, screen time and obesity prevention. I also see anxious middle-schoolers, depressed teens, addicted moms who live with their babies in shelters, Boeing engineers, moms who bring in their kids with the chief complaint "suspended from school," kids with autism, allergies and asthma. A third of my patients are on Medicaid and I have families from Iraq, Mexico, Ukraine and Gambia — work never gets boring.

What advice about work or life do you always want to give the students?
I suppose my two favorite things to leave them with are the incredible diversity you can have in your practice and the balance you can achieve if you are intentional about it. I hope I can continue this for many more years! 

If you are interested in volunteering to host a Student-Alumni Information Days (SAID) event, please contact Allie Rock at, or learn more about volunteer opportunities for alumni around the country at


Alumni Needed for Mock Residency Interviews!

The UW School of Medicine Alumni Association is seeking alumni volunteers to help fourth-year M.D. students prepare for residency interviews. The Office of Career Advising is organizing mock interviews to provide students with the experience of interviewing; it also allows them to receive immediate feedback prior to the interview season. Volunteers will interview four students in 30-minute intervals (20 minutes in the interview, five minutes for feedback, and a five-minute break between interviews). In advance of the interviews, volunteers will receive a list of possible questions, as well as the students’ CVs, personal statements and a copy of their Medical Student Performance Evaluation draft. Read more, below, about the date(s) and time(s) available.

If you would like to volunteer, please contact Sarah Rothschild at by Tues., Sept. 10.

Tues., Sept. 17: 4–6 p.m., 6-8 p.m.
Wed., Sept. 18: 4–6 p.m., 6-8 p.m.
Thurs., Sept. 19: 4–6 p.m., 6–8 p.m.
Tues., Sept. 24: 4–6 p.m., 6–8 p.m.
Wed., Sept. 25: 4–6 p.m., 6–8 p.m.
Thurs., Sept. 26: 4–6 p.m., 6–8 p.m.
Tues., Oct. 1: 4–6 p.m., 6–8 p.m.
Wed., Oct. 2: 4–6 p.m., 6–8 p.m.
Thurs., Oct. 3: 4–6 p.m., 6–8 p.m.


UWSOM Merchandise on Sale Through 8/31

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The Medical Student Association’s bi-annual clothing sale is available at through Saturday, August 31. A portion of the proceeds benefits UW School of Medicine student organizations.

Please note: to complete your purchase, you will need to create a user name and password at the site. 


Alumni in the News

‘Model Patients’ help UW Medical Residents learn to do pelvic exams
Karen McDonough, Res. ’96, Chief Res. ’98, UW associate professor and Alson Burke M.D. ’08, UW clinical assistant professor help residents learn to communicate with patients.

Stories from the Front Lines
Eileen Bulger, M.D., Res. ’93, Fel. ’00, Cara Beth Lee, M.D., Res. ’99, Res. ’00, Res. ’05, Kevin Hanson, M.D. ’98, and Jonathan Wright, M.D. ’01, Res. ’07, MPH, write about connecting with patients, trauma surgeries and setting an example.

High Blood Sugar Linked to Dementia
Paul Crane, M.D. ’97, MPH, UW associate professor of medicine, explains the results of his dementia research with Group Health patients.

Brain Chemistry Differs in Kids with Autism
Stephen R. Dager, M.D., Res. ’83, UW professor of Radiology explains his research on childhood development disorders.

Alternatives for Back Pain Relief
Janna Friedly, M.D., Res. ’05, UW assistant professor in the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, discusses pathologizing back pain.

New Gene Associated with Severe Obesity
Michael Schwartz, M.D. ’86, UW professor in the Department of Medicine, comments on new obesity research and the role of genetics. 

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