Responding to the physician shortage

Gritman partners with WWAMI to build state-of-the-art anatomy lab


The WAMMI laboratory and teaching space is a major part of the new 56,000-square-foot hospital campus expansion in downtown Moscow. Formally dedicated in May 2018, the medical office building was designed to grow with the region’s health care needs. The $18 million facility (cost at full build-out) is fully-funded through hospital operations.

As America grapples with a physician shortage, training and recruiting doctors to serve in rural communities like ours is a top priority for Gritman. Gritman’s partnership with WWAMI, as well as its top-notch training facilities in Moscow, are helping to train, recruit and keep health care practitioners.

“Physician shortage is a national problem expected to worsen as currently practicing doctors retire,” said Jeff Seegmiller, Regional Dean/Director of the University of Idaho WWAMI Medical Education Program.

WWAMI — a partnership between the University of Washington School of Medicine and the western states of Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana, and Idaho —is one solution that’s addressing the challenge.

“Gritman recognizes the physician shortage crisis, and that’s why for over 40 years we’ve been an integral partner in helping educate our future physicians,” said Gritman Chief Medical Officer John Brown, MD. “For many reasons, physicians tend to practice in the communities where they made professional and personal ties.”

This fall, 80 first- and second-year medical students are attending classes in one of the newest medical anatomy laboratories and learning centers in the country — right here at Gritman Medical Center. The training facility is located in the new building across from the hospital.

“We are grateful to Gritman for being our partner in this endeavor,” said Seegmiller.

Seegmiller said a well-designed anatomy lab is the crown jewel of a medical school because it’s foundational to a student’s understanding of the human body.

“Anatomy labs are often stashed away in dark basements with poor ventilation and no natural light,” Seegmiller noted, “but that isn’t how it should be.”

Pictured left to right: Jeff Seegmiller, Regional Dean/Director of the UI WWAMI Medical Education Program, Chuck Staben, UI President, and Kara Besst, Gritman President and CEO. Photo credit: UI Photo Services

Each anatomy workstation integrates traditional and digital anatomy learning so students can review CT scans as well as conduct cadaver prosection with a variety of electronic and surgical tools. In addition to the lab, the facility contains an active learning classroom, a study area and faculty offices.

In addition to the anatomy lab, Gritman is also leading the way in simulation education. Gritman’s Simulation Learning Center provides training and education for WWAMI students, Gritman’s own Certified Nursing Assistant program, the Lewis-Clark State College nursing program and the Walla Walla Community College nursing program.

“Gritman is proud to provide this level of education to such a diverse group of learners that meets the Society for Simulation in Healthcare standards, which is both nationally and internationally recognized for health care education,” said Gritman’s Education Coordinator Deb Meshishnek. “Practicing in a simulated environment has proven outcomes for increased patient safety.”

Did you know?

  • Over 50 percent of WWAMI graduates return to Idaho to practice medicine.
  • Several local physicians are WWAMI alumni, including Dr. Francis Spain (a graduate from the first WWAMI class) and most recently, Dr. Summer Day.
  • Over the past five years, the Gritman Foundation has awarded $86,500 in scholarships to help WWAMI students.
  • The interior design of the new WWAMI space was inspired in part by the 1966 movie Fantastic Voyage, in which a team of explorers are shrunk to microscopic size to save the life of a scientist.