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Creating impact through a multi-state medical education program

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho (WWAMI) joined forces to create a five-state medical education program to alleviate health care shortages in underserved and rural areas. 

The University of Wyoming (UW) School of Medicine joined the collaboration program with the University of Washington School of Medicine (UWSoM) in 1997, establishing WWAMI, which has been Wyoming’s medical school for over 25 years. 

The partnership between UWSoM and UW continues to be a productive and cost-effective approach to meet the physician workforce needs in Wyoming, as Wyoming’s rural population creates a large, medically underserved population.

According to the UW’s School of Medicine, Wyoming has a shortage of physicians. It has the 10th oldest physician workforce in the U.S. and has the third lowest proportion of female physicians nationally.

Rural healthcare in Wyoming

Individuals living in rural America face a common issue – access to health care. This issue is twofold – individuals need access to health care insurance and health care professionals are reluctant to work in rural areas. 

Wyoming residents are uninsured because they either make too much to qualify for Medicaid or too little to afford private insurance. It is estimated 12.2 percent of residents are not insured, according to America’s Health Rankings report released in 2021.

And, according to a 2021 Association of American Medical Colleges study, the U.S. could see a shortage of between 37,800 and 124,000 physicians by 2034.

In 2022, the Wyoming Office of Rural Health reported there are 248 family practice physicians in the state, with 54 individuals practicing in Natrona County, 55 in Laramie County, 15 in Park County, 15 in Fremont County and nine counties having fewer than five family practice physicians.

Given the state’s rural nature, access to health care is challenging but not without solutions. WWAMI is one of those solutions.

Increasing physicians in Wyoming

WWAMI UW Medical Education Program Director Brant Schumaker explained, “Our state’s leadership had the vision to establish a medical school where our students could be trained both in the classroom and alongside medical preceptors in hospitals and other clinical settings around Wyoming, preparing them for practice as physicians in many of Wyoming’s rural and underserved populations.”

Since Wyoming does not have a medical school, legislators partnered with the state of Washington and UWSoM to grant a specific number of medical school seats to each state participating in the WWAMI program. 

“We have a fantastic medical school right here in Wyoming. Through our affiliation with the UWSoM, our students get to complete their basic science and clinical skills training right here in Laramie while being affiliated with the number one school for family medicine and primary care,” he added.

Students participating in the WWAMI program at UW experience state-of-the-art classrooms while receiving their medical education at the best medical schools.

Schumaker continued, “Wyoming receives 20 seats per year for a total of 80 students across the four years who are enrolled in the program, and we host students for their first two years at UW in Laramie.”

Wyoming residents participating in the WWAMI medical school program receive their degrees from UWSoM.

The UW website explains the state of Wyoming funds these 20 seats, and students from Wyoming in the WWAMI program sign contracts requiring them to return to work in Wyoming within one year of completing their training. 

If they work in Wyoming for three years, the money the state paid on their behalf to UWSoM will be forgiven. 

This year, the WWAMI program at UW graduated 16 students who have entered their residency training before being eligible to enter the workforce across Wyoming.

Melissa Anderson is the editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to

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