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Published February 26, 2020
The new group of Wyoming WWAMI Medical Education Program students met with state leaders along with the program’s alumni, preceptors and faculty. They met last week in Cheyenne during the annual WWAMI (Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho) legislative luncheon.
Those in attendance at the Cheyenne Depot event included U.S. Sen. John Barrasso; former U.S. Rep. Cynthia Lummis; Gov. Mark Gordon; University of Wyoming Acting President Neil Theobald; College of Health Sciences Dean David Jones; WWAMI Assistant Dean Dr. Larry Kirven; Wyoming WWAMI Program Director Tim Robinson; and Suzanne Allen, vice dean for academic, rural and regional affairs at the University of Washington School of Medicine.
While scheduled to meet with the WWAMI students later in the afternoon, Gordon’s brief stopover at the luncheon event provided an opportunity for the new class of medical students to meet and get to know the governor.
Kirven spoke to the students and those in attendance, noting that the WWAMI program is about to turn 25 years old.
“It’s been said that ‘It takes a village,’ and, indeed, we have one,” Kirven said, noting the many physicians who serve as preceptors and their clinical sites around the state that provide training locations for medical students to put into practice what they are learning.
Robinson also thanked the program’s many supporters, noting that “70 percent of our graduates return to Wyoming to practice. Their expanded medical school training in our great state lays an important foundation for these students to want to return.”
“With Wyoming ranking 43rd in the country for meeting physician workforce needs, WWAMI graduates provide a critical pipeline of some of the nation’s best physicians to practice in our communities,” Robinson added.
Barrasso, an orthopedic surgeon, offered congratulations to the students and encouraged them to come back to Wyoming to establish their medical practices.
“You can’t find better patients than folks in Wyoming,” Barrasso said. “As patients of yours, folks here are going to look to you to be competent and caring, and they are going to have confidence in you.”
Allen noted the successful partnerships with Wyoming WWAMI, including the University of Washington School of Medicine; the Wyoming Legislature; the University of Wyoming; and physicians and preceptors throughout the five-state WWAMI region.
Following the luncheon, students, faculty, staff and WWAMI administrators visited the newly restored Wyoming Capitol. There, the new class of medical students was introduced to members of the Senate and the House of Representatives.
Afterward, the governor again visited with the students and invited questions.
Bradley Lutz, of Casper, wanted to know if the governor had thoughts on the declining numbers of EMT volunteers around the state. Lutz himself had served 15 years as a firefighter and paramedic before his acceptance to medical school.
“This matter is of concern to me, and we need to look closely at not only the working conditions for these volunteers, but also at compensation, medical insurance and possibly a retirement incentive,” Gordon said.
Larissa Siirila, of Worland, asked about the continuing debate surrounding Medicaid expansion in the state.
Gordon described the complexity of the issue.
“There are many different parts to this conversation,” he said. “We ultimately want what’s best for the people of Wyoming; thus, we will continue to consider the matter closely.”
Members of the new class of first-year WWAMI medical students, listed by their hometowns, are:
Casper -- Caleb Hardt, Bradley Lutz, Natasha Radosevich, Marley Realing and Chae Sutherland.
Cheyenne -- Jacob Kennedy, Anthony Menghini and Samantha Erickson-Pettigrew.
Douglas -- Hayden True.
Gillette -- Amanda Galambas and Perry Smith.
Green River -- Daniel Lancaster.
Lander -- Peter McCullough.
Laramie -- Tyler Loose and Lauren Scandrett.
Pine Haven -- Savanah Richter.
Scottsbluff, Neb. -- Annie Smidt.
Sheridan -- Thomas Fenn.
Worland -- Larissa Siirila.
Wright -- Michael Yeradi.