SPOKANE, Wash. — Washington State University's College of Medicine celebrated a major milestone Thursday with its first ever graduating class.
The college held a virtual ceremony in the morning and a drive-thru graduation in the afternoon at the Spokane Campus.
WSU College of Medicine's Dean John Tomkowiak said this is momentous day.
"There are so many folks across the state who have worked tirelessly for many years to make this come to fruition," Tomkowiak said. "We have an awesome first class, faculty, staff that have helped our students achieve their goals. And of course our students are the best and we're so proud of them."
55 medical students crossed the stage this afternoon, taking their first steps as WSU's first class of doctors.
"It's crazy!" Jaime Mackiewicz, WSU College of Med. Graduate said. "I've been a student for, I don't know how many years and now we're finally done. Moving on to the next step so it feels a little bit surreal."
Graduate Andrew Liechty told KREM 2 he is honored to be part of this historic day.
"It's exhilarating, exciting to be a part of this journey to be part of the first class to kind of make some history, and really just contribute to the physician workforce of our state," Liechty said.
39 percent of the inaugural class will remain in Washington state for their residency. Many others plan to return to Washington to practice medicine.
Graduate Josh Pahang said it's important to him to return to Washington because, "It's the community I grew up in and it's the state I know. And this is, I guess the people I want to serve."
Dean Tomkowiak emphasizes the importance of keeping these doctors in the Evergreen state.
"It's really a step towards meeting the demands of the health care workforce in the state of Washington and beyond, and that starts today," Tomkowiak said. "We know that 70 percent of the time when they finish their training, they will stay within 100 miles of that. So we have many of our graduates who are going off into rural and underserved areas right here in the state of Washington, and we expect them to stay close by to take care of us."