Concerns for Higher Education/Research in New D.C. Administration Outlined by WSU Pharmacy Dean Pollack

Here is a thoughtful discussion from Dr. Gary Pollack, WSU Dean of the College of Pharmacy and HSSA Board Member. Dr. Pollack outlines concerns for higher education and research at the federal level in a new Administration. The article first appeared in the College's e-newsletter Cougar RX.

A new administration in Washington D.C. always brings uncertainty to higher education. Changes in policy, budgetary priorities, and politico-social philosophy can have profound effects on colleges and universities, especially public institutions with a significant research mission.

The current anxiety in higher education is more acute than most of us have experienced in our lifetimes. Within academic health sciences in particular, there are at least three key areas of concern:

  • Vulnerability of the NIH budget given the administration’s stated goals directing priorities to other areas. Without associated reductions in entitlement programs, it is unclear how a congress previously committed to a balanced budget will approve these new expenditures without significant cuts in a variety of federal programs, including those that fund basic and applied research.
  • “Fake science” may become institutionalized. The first indication of this potential trend is the recent alleged commission on “vaccine safety and scientific integrity” (suggesting that the integrity of the science that has demonstrated conclusively that vaccines are safe and effective will be under attack). A recent outbreak of mumps in Washington state, including a large cluster of cases in Spokane County, is a reminder of the critical importance that immunizations are to public health.
  • Restrictions on immigration may have an impact on academic research. A significant plurality of students pursuing advanced degrees in the sciences at U.S. universities are from overseas. These international students are not displacing U.S. citizens from academic programs; there is simply an insufficient supply of domestic students who are interested in advanced training in the sciences, including biomedical and health sciences. The fear of losing the ability to enroll qualified international students in advanced degree-granting programs within the academy is real. The realization of that fear ultimately being a reduction in the science workforce with significant and persistent long-term costs to the economy.

Among these areas of concern, the debate continues as to which one is the most important and how each will impact the policy landscape surrounding higher education and research. In this environment of anxiety we need to keep several thoughts close to both heart and mind; thoughts which are part of the very fabric that our university community is comprised of and which, I believe, cannot be reiterated too much. At WSU we hold the following core values:

  • We are committed to being a community that protects the free exchange of ideas while encouraging dialog that is constructive and civil.
  • We embrace a worldview that recognizes and values the importance of domestic and global diversity, global interdependence, and sustainability.

Time will tell us what the final policy landscape will look like. In the meantime I know that the progress we have made as a college, university and community cannot be undone if we keep our core values close to heart and continue to collaborate on the solutions that will advance, promote and protect human health. This is the vision of our college’s land-grant heritage and tradition of service to society, and is why we strive every day for excellence in collaborative research and scholarship, and developing outstanding health care professionals and scientists.

Spokane-based PAML to be sold to LabCorp

Life sciences company LabCorp, headquartered in Burlington, N.C. intends to purchase Spokane-based Pathology Associates Medical Laboratories from its current owners, Providence Health & Services, Renton, WA, and Catholic Health Initiatives, Boulder, CO. The companies confirmed the sale in a news release issued yesterday.

PAML employs 1,600 people, about 500 employed in Spokane where the company is headquartered. Its President & CEO, Francisco Velazquez, MD, SM, is also a member of HSSA's board of directors. The sale is likely to continue through 2017 into 2018.

WSU Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine Gets NWCCU Accreditation

WSU's Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine in Spokane has now achieved another major milestone when it received news this week that WSU was granted accreditation by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU) for the doctor of medicine program it will be offering.

Founding Dean John Tomkowiak, MD, MOL, said the accreditation process was a rigorous one and required enormous combined effort of faculty, staff and administration. "This is a major step that allows the university to confer the MD degree to graduating medical school students," said Dr. Tomkowiak.

The inaugural class of medical students will begin in August 2017.

Life Science Washington Commercialization Bootcamp & Networking Events in Spokane

Life Science Washington is partnering with WSU Spokane and Startup Spokane to host a networking event March 16th, 5:30-7:00 PM at Startup Spokane, 610 W 2nd Avenue, Spokane. It's called Ecosystem (as in the life sciences ecosystem) Connect. The next day on March 17th from 9 AM - 4 PM at WSU Spokane Room SAC 147, the partners will deliver a one day bootcamp. Topics to be covered include funding sources, regulatory issues, IP/legal issues and market research. These events are FREE to attend. Registration for the Ecosystem Connect networking event is and registration for the bootcamp is For more information, contact Kayla Young, The event is funded by a grant from the Life Sciences Discovery Fund.

UW CoMotion Labs Expand to Spokane

CoMotion, the University of Washington's collaborative innovation hub, recently expanded its CoMotion Labs to Spokane. The intent is to connect the region's vibrant startup community more fully with western Washington's. Called CoMotion Labs @ Spokane, its mission is to contribute to the growth of the innovation community in Eastern Washington by bringing UW resources, assets, tools and networks to the region. UW suggests the focus of the Spokane lab will be on manufacturing, healthcare, agriculture and robotics. CoMotion Labs hired Brady Ryan as the CoMotion Labs @ Spokane manager. He most recently was the commercialization manager and business development manager at Life Science Washington. Ryan will be located at the UW Spokane Center in downtown Spokane.

"Spokane's University District and the entrepreneurial ecosystem will greatly benefit with the presence of University of Washington's CoMotion Labs," said Steve Trabun, Avista regional business manager. "Having CoMotion Labs in our community will further enhance the collaborative opportunities between Startup Spokane, a program of Greater Spokane Incorporated, and our region's colleges and universities. As a result, the entrepreneurial ecosystem will be strengthened to create even more ideas and early stage growth companies in technology, life sciences, and other emerging areas."

Velazquez, Ashe elected to Life Science Washington Board Positions

HSSA Board member Dr. Francisco Velazquez, PAML President & CEO, has been appointed to the Executive Committee of the Life Science Washington Board. Susan Ashe, HSSA Executive Director, also was elected to the statewide board for her first term. Life Science Washington is an independent, non-profit trade association serving the life sciences industry in the state of Washington.The organization advocates for positive public policy and private investment, and brings together research institutions, investors and entrepreneurs to grow its economic sector and create healthier communities.

Spokane Public Radio features HSSA

In a Spokane Public Radio story featuring HSSA and its recent four "Access to Care" grants, reporter Doug Nadvornick shares with his audience information about HSSA and these important grants. To read and listen to the story, click here.

HSSA Welcomes Diverse, Multi-Cultural Community

HSSA's Board strongly supports a diverse and multi-cultural community, free of harassment and hate. The Board expressed its concerns at a recent Board meeting about incidents of harassment of multi-cultural people, students, families, organizations and others. HSSA appreciates the many multi-cultural students, researchers and faculty at area universitiess, and other members of our community, especially those who may appear different than us.

In order to help grow a robust health sciences research industry in the Spokane region, which is its mission, HSSA has invested in researchers, both public and private, and core laboratories where research may be conducted on the best available scientific equipment. Our desire is to both grow in number the research and intellectual capacity of our region, and increase the number of researchers.These researchers may just find the next cure for a disease, or a device that makes life easier for someone in treatment. These highly educated people are sought after and may literally live anywhere they wish.

If Spokane is to be successful in achieving its vision for a world-class health sciences and heath care region with great medical schools, top-notch researchers and faculty and an economic competitive edge, then we must join together to care for and support one another. This region should not and will not tolerate verbal, written or physical harassment of any kind.

HSSA cares deeply about the well-being of our community, and its rich diversity of people, cultures and religions that make Spokane a better community, and a most welcome place to live, attend school, conduct research, teach, own a business or simply be a resident, in a harassment-free environment.

PAML's Velazquez speaks to the growth of life sciences, changes to consumer health technology

Dr. Francisco Velazquez, president & CEO of Spokane-based PAML, and HSSA Board Member, has recently been featured in the Spokane Journal of Business. You may find his article on the potential economic growth in the life sciences here His article about personal health technology and how it is changing the health and wellness industries and our health may be found here