BOISE -- The Idaho State Board of Education is asking the legislature for more seats at WWAMI. WWAMI stands for Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana, Idaho. It is a program that allows students from those states to go to medical school at the University of Washington, for in-state tuition rates.
With no medical schools in Idaho, WWAMI is important for getting more doctors in the state. Currently, Idaho has 20 seats at WWAMI, the same as the other states. But the State Board of Education is asking for five more seats.
In 2007, Idaho increased whammy seats from 18 to 20. In 2009 they wanted to increase that number again to 40. That did not happen because of the economic downturn. The state has not added any more seats since 2007 but Idaho's population continues to grow.
The five new seats would be part of the TRUST program -- which stands for Targeted Rural Under-served Track. Those new five seats would go to students who serve their residency in rural areas in Idaho. The idea is these students would practice medicine in rural areas when they are done with medical school.
"Often in rural areas people have very limited access to medical care, and in some cases have to go great distances to find a doctor or to find a medical facility," said Idaho State Board of Education Chief Legislative Affairs Officer, Marilyn Whitney.
Whitney said Idaho brings in more doctors from out of state than it trains from in state. She said the board has a good track record of WWAMI students coming back to the Gem State after medical school.
Each WWAMI seat costs $50,000. The State Board of Education is also asking the legislature for more funding for family, psychiatric, and internal medicine residencies.