Montana State University

New space at Bozeman hospital provides growing room for MSU’s WWAMI Medical Education Program

August 31, 2016 -- By Marshall Swearingen for the MSU News Service

The newly constructed Highland Park 5 building at the Bozeman Deaconess Hospital medical campus will house the WWAMI Medical Program Suite. The grand opening will be celebrated Friday, Sept. 2, 2016. Photo courtesy Bozeman Health.

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BOZEMAN — A new facility at Bozeman Health Deaconess Hospital is providing much-needed growing room for the WWAMI Medical Education Program at Montana State University, as well as strengthening the program's collaboration with Bozeman Health and local physicians.

Two large classrooms, several offices and other facilities on the newly completed second floor of the Highland Park 5 Medical Office Building will be the new home of the MSU WWAMI program, which formerly occupied portions of the Lewis and Leon Johnson halls on MSU's main campus. The new facility roughly doubles the space available to Montana WWAMI students and faculty. Investments made by MSU and generous donors have made possible the $2.1 million interior buildout of the space, according to MSU WWAMI Director Martin Teintze. MSU is also covering the cost of leasing the space. The new facility at Bozeman Health will also provide space for the MSU College of Nursing.

“This expansion demonstrates Montana State University’s continued commitment to medical education that stretches back to WWAMI’s beginnings in Montana,” said Bob Mokwa, interim executive vice president for academic affairs and provost. “We are proud to be partners with WWAMI and Bozeman Health in advancing this important program for Montana.”

"Until now, we've been in basically the same space on MSU's campus for 43 years," Teintze said. "To have this space here (at Bozeman Health) is wonderful."

WWAMI is a cooperative medical education program that allows students from Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho to pay in-state tuition while earning medical degrees from University of Washington's top-ranking School of Medicine. Before completing their degrees with training at UW's Seattle campus and medical rotations in the WWAMI region, Montana students spend 18 months receiving instruction from MSU professors as well as physicians at Bozeman Health.

As the state’s largest biomedical and health research and teaching institution, MSU has been a WWAMI partner since 1971. In 2013, the Montana Legislature approved a permanent expansion of the state's WWAMI program from 20 to 30 students annually, which was the first expansion of WWAMI in 42 years. Because of those efforts, 10 more Montana residents have access to a medical education annually. As a result of a new curriculum, MSU WWAMI students will now spend their first 18 months in Bozeman, allowing two cohorts totaling 60 students to be educated in the program each year.

"We didn't have enough space for 60 students," Teintze said, "and having this new facility is absolutely essential to participating in the new curriculum," which emphasizes interaction with professional physicians and small-group learning in place of traditional lectures.

One of the facility's large classrooms can be divided into three smaller rooms to facilitate group work, and the other is set up with cameras and microphones that allow students to videoconference with faculty and students in Seattle and the other WWAMI sites. The classroom is separated from a smaller room with a one-way mirror that allows for medical simulations.

"The students are getting more clinical training in 18 months than they used to get in two years," Teintze said.

The Highland Park space also includes an anatomy lab equipped with excellent lighting and ventilation, plus attached locker rooms, all welcome improvements from the lab that WWAMI formerly shared with other departments on the MSU campus.

According to Teintze, locating the new space at the hospital largely eliminates the need for students and faculty to travel back and forth between campus and the hospital.

"Most of the clinical education is happening here at Bozeman Health, and most of our faculty are physicians,” Teintze said. “Now they just have to walk down the hall, instead of driving to campus."

That also means more opportunity for students and Bozeman Health physicians, 25 of whom are WWAMI graduates, to interact in hallways or during meal times, said Michael Spinelli, a practicing physician and associate director of the Montana WWAMI program.

"Being around students helps remind us why we went into medicine and helps ground us in our work," he added.

That interaction is also beneficial for the WWAMI students, said Teintze.

"It's important that they hear from people who know and love practicing medicine in Montana."

A grand opening for the new MSU WWAMI space is scheduled for Friday, Sept. 2. The public is invited to an open house on that day from 1-2 p.m. Highland Park 5 is located at 937 Highland Blvd. in Bozeman.

Contact: Martin Teintze, director, WWAMI at MSU, (406) 994-4411 or mteintze@montana.edu