BOZEMAN – Members of the largest class in the history of Montana’s WWAMI medical program received their white coats and stethoscopes Friday afternoon in a ceremony that involved state and university leaders who played a major role in its expansion.
Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, Montana State University President Waded Cruzado and Commissioner of Higher Education Clayton Christian applauded the 30 Montana students who entered the WWAMI program this year and thanked everyone who supported the 50 percent increase in enrollment.
For the past four decades, the cooperative program that involves the University of Washington School of Medicine and Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho has enrolled 20 Montana students a year. The Montana Legislature in 2013 approved a permanent increase to 30.
“This is the first time in the history of Montana State University and the history of the state of Montana in which we have received this type of support for WWAMI from the legislature and from the state,” Cruzado told the students, family and friends who packed MSU’s Procrastinator Theatre. “That accomplishment allowed us to move from 20 slots for the first time in history and deserves a round of applause.”
The speakers all shared their appreciation for the legislators who supported the expansion, two of whom were in attendance, Rep. Tom Woods and Rep. JP Pomnichowski. The expansion received bipartisan support during the legislative session.
Christian said the increase showed that there’s strong support for WWAMI’s investment in Montana. He noted that the program allows Montanans to serve Montanans and said the “best Montana students are stepping up to the plate.
“Learn the science of the profession, but also learn the art of the trade,” Christian advised the first-year students. “Then please come back to Montana and serve. We need you here.”
Bullock said, “You are taking important steps on a journey that will not only impact your life, but drastically impact the lives of thousands of people you are yet to meet.”
The students will face big changes in the field of medicine and big challenges in serving a state that has 1 million people in 147,000 square miles, Bullock said. Commenting that they will face an exciting time of change, he advised the students, “Don’t lose sight of yourselves. Don’t forget why you chose to follow the path you have.
“I trust that passion will bring you home,” Bullock said, adding that they can bring Montana closer to the goal that “all Montanans have access to health care no matter what their position in life.”
Montana students who enter the WWAMI program are enrolled in the University of Washington School of Medicine and complete their first year of medical school at Montana State University. Starting their second year, they join WWAMI students from other states in Seattle. The ceremony where students receive white coats and stethoscopes welcomes the students into the medical profession. It also helps make them aware of their professional responsibilities and encourages them to accept the obligations inherent in practicing medicine.
Members of this year’s entering class in Montana earned their bachelor’s degrees at institutions as near as MSU and as far away as Harvard University, Dartmouth College and the University of Notre Dame. The students majored in everything from French and photography to human biology and neuroscience. The white coat recipients -- numbering 13 men and 17 women -- and their hometowns are:
Alberton: Scott Young
Billings: Julie Middleton
Bozeman: Abraham Bombeck, Jessica Brown, Julie Campbell, Tiffany Dood, Megan Hatcher, Jeremiah Stringam and Ida Wilson
Butte: Daniel Cornish, Whitney Wright
Charlo: Jean-Paul Toussaint
Ekalaka: Orin Hansen
Glendive: Ashlea Duke
Great Falls: Conrad Addison, Bridgett McNulty, Catherine Miller
Helena: Matthew Goldes, Kayla McMahon, Ryann Milne-Price, Joseph Steffens
Hysham: Kena Lackman
Kalispell: Melanie Nelson, Jordan Vaughan
Missoula: Corey Gaul, Jestine MacDonald, Abigail Mansch, Cameron Scranton
Pray: Caroline Pihl
Trout Creek: Dylan Werst
Evelyn Boswell, (406) 994-5135 or firstname.lastname@example.org