SHERIDAN — The University of Wyoming’s newest class of medical students was welcomed at a luncheon in Cheyenne hosted by leaders of the WWAMI Medical Education Program and members of the Wyoming State Legislature Feb. 21.
The luncheon is an annual event for the Wyoming WWAMI (Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho) Medical Education Program and is an occasion for new incoming medical students to meet with medical school and state leadership; receive updates; and recognize the continued support offered by the state of Wyoming to the medical school program.
Dr. Brant Schumaker, director of the Wyoming WWAMI Medical Education Program in UW’s College of Health Sciences, said the program appreciates the support it receives from the Legislature.
“Our state’s leadership had the vision 26 years ago to establish a medical school where our students could be trained both in the classroom and alongside medical preceptors in hospitals and other clinical settings around the state, preparing them for practice as physicians in many of Wyoming’s rural and underserved populations,” Schumaker said.
The state contributes up to 85 percent of the cost for Wyoming students to attend the WWAMI program, enabling them to receive their medical degrees from the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle before completing their residency and, ultimately, returning to Wyoming to practice medicine as part of their tuition agreement.
“We could not exist without the support of our Legislature,” Schumaker said.
Also in attendance at the event were Dr. Robert Monger, assistant dean of the Wyoming WWAMI program and a practicing rheumatologist in Cheyenne; Dr. Suzanne Allen, the University of Washington School of Medicine (UWSOM) vice dean for academic, rural and regional affairs; and Dr. Tim Dellit, interim CEO/dean of the UWSOM and interim executive vice president for medical affairs at the University of Washington.
“We are so proud of our partnerships with our Wyoming clinicians and hospitals for providing a community-based education for our students, and we have deep appreciation for the support of state leaders,” Dellit said. “These partnerships create a solid base for our students to train for rural medicine.”
First-year medical student Heidi Taggart, of Jackson, notes the importance of how WWAMI enables her to give back to her home state and its people.
“When I was choosing where to pursue my medical education, continuing my education at a top medical school while staying closer to home made Wyoming WWAMI the obvious choice,” Taggart said. “The opportunity to learn from physicians who work in the state and are familiar in the specifics of practicing medicine here is a unique opportunity not easily replicated at other medical schools, and it will guide me well in my future career serving the people of Wyoming.”
At the end of the day, students had the opportunity to visit with Gov. Mark Gordon and discuss issues related to health care access and the practice of medicine in Wyoming. Casey Pikla, Medical Student Association class president, and Wyoming Medical Society representative Taggart represented their classmates in the meeting with the governor.
“I chose Wyoming WWAMI because its mission aligns with the values I aspire to in medicine,” Pikla said. “Wyoming is a state with a tremendous need for providers, and this program cultivates skills to be both a great physician and a community leader. The small cohort size allows me to have a personal relationship with faculty and to build close ties with classmates who will, one day, be fellow colleagues working to address the health challenges of our state.”
Each new class of medical students in the Wyoming WWAMI program spends the first two years in the foundations phase on the UW campus, then another two years in the clinical phase that places them in medical care facilities and hospital settings around the state for hands-on training.
“We are proud of all of our WWAMI students and honored to support them in their pursuit of careers in medicine,” said Jacob Warren, dean of the UW College of Health Sciences. “Their dedication to health care in Wyoming — combined with the ongoing support of the Legislature — directly increases access to care throughout the state.”
Local members of the new class of first-year WWAMI medical students, listed by their hometowns, are:
Big Horn's Andrew Quinn and Andrew White and Sheridan's Caleb Hoopes are WWAMI first year medical students.
To learn more about UW’s WWAMI Medical Education Program, see uwyo.edu/wwami.