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Future doctors in multi-state cooperative program plan to practice medicine in Montana

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Posted at 11:42 AM, Sep 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-06 11:43:34-04

Thirty "WWAMI" Montana State University students received their white coats, following their first three weeks in medical school.

Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho: five states under a cooperative program with the University of Washington School of Medicine. Each year, 30 students join a cohort to learn, grow, and immerse themselves in Montana medicine.

“This is the community I know, the lifestyle that I know. Ultimately this is home for me, this is where I feel like I belong and why not help serve the community that I understand the most,” said student Robell Bassett.

Bassett is a native of Missoula who crossed the Continental Divide to attend college in Bozeman. He tried different careers, including engineering, wildland firefighting, and serving at a restaurant.

“I would go in, I’d love it, but I was never fulfilled enough. I love people, and I feel like one of my highest purposes is to serve my surrounding community and preserving the humanistic component in medicine,” Bassett said.

The community Bassett wishes to serve? Montana, his home state.

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, a report from 2019 showed that 35% of the current practicing physicians in Montana were 60 years old or older. WWAMI Director Martin Teintze notes that Montana has a shortage of physicians.

“We have several counties in Montana that don’t have a single physician, and Montana has one of the oldest average age for physicians, so many will be retiring soon,” Teintze said.

Teintze explained how important the WWAMI program is for the future of Montana and rural medicine.

Friends, family and the community gathered in the Strand Union Building to watch the students don their white coats and enter the next chapter of their profession.

WEB EXCLUSIVE: Extended interviews with new students in the WWAMI Medical Education Program

Students in MSU's WWAMI Medical Education Program talk about their plans