Idaho has seen a shortage of physicians and in 2019, the state was 49th in the country for active physicians per 100,000 patients.
Friday is the 50th anniversary of the partnership between the University of Idaho and the University of Washington, which enables Idaho students to learn at a top-ranked medical school.
The University of Washington's School of Medicine’s WWAMI program, which stands for and serves Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho celebrated “Match Day” recently.
WWAMI fourth-year medical students in Idaho celebrated virtually and this year, a number of medical students apart of the WWAMI program who are originally from Idaho matched back with programs right in their hometowns. Two of the students get to provide medical help right where they grew up.
Annika Kohlmeier and Bill Thurston matched with their residency programs near or in their hometowns of Boise and Saint Maries.
“There are just a number of medical specialties we don’t have here yet and for the ones we do, they are pretty small programs. They are not huge. So there's just not that ability to have everybody who would maybe want to, to be here. So, I guess I feel especially grateful that it worked out what I wanted and where I wanted it. It was just a home run in terms of getting that.”
Kohlmeier, who was born and raised in Boise, matched into internal medicine at the Boise Veteran Affairs Medical Center. Thurston matched into family medicine in Coeur d’Alene, only an hour away from his hometown of Saint Maries.
“I was able to do some rotations through here and there were some patients that I saw that knew my family and had that outside connection, so it was really cool to talk to them about that,” Thurston said.
He also had another connection with patients - his family.
“Both my dad and my grandfather were physicians in Saint Maries. One of the patients said ‘I've been taken care of by your dad and grandpa too,’” Thurston said. “It's cool they have the same alma mater and be in the area.”
Kohlmeier and Thurston both matched with residency programs at the top of their lists.
“This was my number one choice,” Kohlmeier said. “I think in medicine especially, there is a debt of gratitude and being lucky enough to do my medical education here in Idaho. Every person who lets me learn a physical exam on them, lets me practice with them, lets me talk with them, they are really investing in the future of our state and the future of medicine.”
Both say they looking forward to taking this next step in their education and to be able to help serve Idahoans during their residencies.
“The things I'm looking forward to? I think just gaining confidence in my skills and learning new things and getting that much closer to being able to practice on my own,” Thurston said.
To learn more about WWAMI click here.