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Cooperative med school program has new Wyo chief

Apr 1, 2014 - From staff reports

A veteran University of Wyoming faculty member with a strong interest in health care quality improvement has been chosen to lead the Wyoming WWAMI Medical Education Program.

Tim Robinson, who since August has served as the program's interim director, assumed the director's post this month. Through WWAMI -- which stands for Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho -- Wyoming students attend UW for the first year of medical school before earning their degrees from the University of Washington School of Medicine.

"With an aging physician workforce and an already short supply of physicians, I believe that the WWAMI program is an important vehicle for ensuring the sustainability of Wyoming's future," Robinson says.

"Having an opportunity to build relationships with our medical students, as well as many wonderful physicians around the state, is something I view as both a privilege and a blessing. I look forward to working with them to advocate for quality health care in Wyoming."

Wyoming began its affiliation with the University of Washington WWAMI program in 1997. Since then, 223 Wyoming students have started medical school through WWAMI; 142 have graduated from the University of Washington with medical degrees; 79 have completed residency training and are eligible to practice medicine; and 52 have returned to Wyoming to practice, most in primary care.

Wyoming's WWAMI students must return to the state to practice medicine for three years after completing residency, or they must repay the state the amount of money expended on their behalf.

Wyoming's rate of 52 of 79 graduates returning to the state to practice -- 66 percent -- is the highest in the WWAMI region.

"This statistic is particularly important given the fact that Wyoming ranks 43rd in the nation when it comes to states being able to provide a sufficient number of physicians for their populations," Robinson says.

U.S. News & World Report recently ranked the University of Washington School of Medicine as the nation's top educational site for primary care, family medicine and rural health.

Robinson began his career at UW in 2000 as an assistant professor in the Department of Statistics.

In 2009, he began teaching the WWAMI program's Medical Information for Decision Making course. Through that course, he developed an interest in Wyoming health care issues.

Robinson, now a professor of statistics, has background and research interests including experimental and sampling design, quality improvement in health care, modeling, computational statistics and statistics education. He has won numerous teaching and research awards at UW.

He and his wife, Dawn, have four children.

"With all four of our children born in Wyoming and now being raised in this state, we have really fallen in love with what this great state has to offer," he says. "As is the case with anyone raising a family, it doesn't take long to realize the importance of being able to access quality health care. Our family has benefited greatly from the quality of physicians in Laramie, several of whom are WWAMI graduates. The availability of quality health care is essential for everyone in Wyoming."

Robinson notes that health care quality is a critical component in economic development, as quality of life is a major consideration in decisions about where businesses locate and expand.

Over the next couple of years, UW will work on a curriculum renewal with the University of Washington School of Medicine, and Robinson says the process will ensure more hands-on, rural training for students. UW also will begin work soon to assemble a review panel, including Wyoming doctors, to prepare a report for the Legislature on the effectiveness of the WWAMI program, along with possible enhancements.

"It's an exciting time to help lead this program into the future," Robinson says.

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