Over the course of its 125-year history, Washington State University has enjoyed many moments of great achievement. There is no doubt that today will be listed among its most historic.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee this morning signed into law a bill that paves the way for an independently accredited WSU medical school at our health sciences campus in Spokane. I deeply appreciate his support as well as that of the legislators who stepped up to sponsor and co-sponsor the bill: Sen. Michael Baumgartner and Rep. Marcus Riccelli sponsored the legislation and, working with co-sponsors Sen. Andy Billig and Rep. Norm Johnson, garnered statewide, bipartisan support. We could not have succeeded without them.

Because of their leadership, and unwavering support from community leaders and those in the medical industry, WSU will be able to align our resources to help address a critical need of our state, something we have done since our founding as the state’s land-grant research institution. We will be able to help increase access to primary health care for all of our citizens. We will be able to provide new opportunities for Washington students to attend medical school in state rather than take their talents and resources elsewhere.

We will be able to rev the state’s economic engine with new opportunities to attract medical research dollars and bolster Washington’s existing health care industry. In fact, our community-based model for medical education  features strong partnerships with hospitals and clinics around the state that benefit both the students and the communities in which they serve.

Next steps begin immediately. Under the guidance of Dr. Ken Roberts, interim dean of the WSU College of Medical Sciences, we will begin the accreditation process within the week. Because of the long-term investment we have made in the health sciences in Spokane over the past several years – in faculty, facilities, and curriculum – we are well on our way to meeting the majority of standards that must be met to receive accreditation. Consequently, we are on track to enroll our first class of medical students, as promised, in fall 2017. We will begin the search for a founding dean of the college immediately as well.

Successful passage of the medical education legislation is just one example of the state’s ongoing support of higher education in general and WSU in particular. Both the House and Senate budget proposals for the coming biennium include support for creation of the medical school; expansion of offerings and construction of a new facility at WSU North Puget Sound at Everett; new opportunities for students seeking degrees in high demand fields; and funds to support salary increases for state employees for the first time in many years.

Washington State University has worked to serve the needs of our state, nation, and world for 125 years, and successful development of a medical school is one more way for us to improve the health and wellbeing of Washingtonians. I look forward to serving the people of our state in this new arena and am thankful we conduct that work in such a supportive environment.