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updated 2:54 PM CDT, Jul 28, 2018

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Elson Floyd name on new WSU medical school would ensure support for future

Just as it was WSU President Elson Floyd's personal presence in the legislative halls that overrode doubt and opposition to bring about creation of a new medical school for his university, naming the medical school after him would ensure that his spirit and memory provide the support for the school to weather challenges ahead.

Elson Floyd

As the awareness spread in the days following his death from cancer last week that Floyd was waging an eventually losing battle with the disease while he waged the legislative struggle to fulfill his vision of a new medical school for WSU, the idea of putting his name on the school has logically surfaced.  

There are apparently a number of bills making the rounds in the Legislature to name the medical school after Floyd, who died last week in Pullman at the age of 59 after the colon cancer he had been battling for months suddenly worsened and claimed his life.

And a move on social media emerged yesterday urging that the medical school be named for Floyd, since his personal immersion in the struggle to convince the Legislature that the state needed more than one approach to training doctors and that WSU could make the difference won the day with lawmakers.

Floyd had spent hours in Olympia early this year testifying before committees, meeting one on one with legislators and building WSU's case for why a second medical school made sense, even while UW lobbyists were saying it didn't. In the end the legislation that will allow WSU to create a second medical school in this state passed by an overwhelming margin. It was signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee the first week of April.

"A lot of legislators knew of his battle with cancer," said John Gardner, vice president for development and CEO of the WSU Foundation. "But he handled his personal health like he handled every other issue he confronted in life, never using the challenges to advance a cause."

"His privacy was something Elson was consistent about, never wanting his burden to become someone else's burden," said Gardner, whom Floyd brought with him to Pullman from the University of Missouri when Floyd took the WSU job in 2007 and was one of Floyd's closest friends.  

While it's logical that the lawmakers who came to know and respect Floyd, and were saddened by his death would seek to put the final mark of his name on his medical school, the Legislature may not be the right forum for that decision.

The established university processes may deserve to be served in Floyd's case in particular, and the forum for a decision on naming the WSU medical school after him should remain the province of the WSU Board of Regents.

And since it seems more than likely that the school will eventually carry his name, that will virtually ensure that future legislative battles over funding to produce doctors from both UW and WSU will unfold with lawmakers sensitive to whose name is on the WSU medical school.  

Just as there was legitimate and understandable opposition to a WSU medical school from supporters and fans of the UW medical school that is one of the finest in the nation, that opposition will surface in coming legislative sessions over the appropriations necessary to provide sufficient funding for now two medical schools.

Elson's name on the school is the most certain way for WSU to weather those certain legislative funding storms, first for the focus on the initial class of 40 medical doctorate candidates who are to be welcomed in the fall of 2017, then for the funding challenges that await through 2024 when the first graduates will complete their residencies.

If that naming decision comes from the lawmakers themselves, it would likely assure that each issue is weighed on the basis of a legislative reaction that "we named this place for Elson."

But the reality is that the decision belongs in the hands of the regents of the university where he left many imprints, one of which was his vision for a WSU medical school.

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