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Fairbanks lawmaker revives bid to add law, medicine schools in Alaska

Alaska Dispatch

Rep. Scott Kawasaki earnestly believes that Alaska lawmakers must come together in Juneau, set aside differences and make Alaska competitive. Only he sees another path to a diverse economy and renewable wealth, one that's not dependent on a pipeline right-of-way.

Kawasaki sees Alaska's future in a professional class of educated citizens. And he's sponsored legislation to deliver graduate schools to the Great Land.

For two years, the Fairbanks Democrat tried to convince his colleagues in the 27th Alaska Legislature that the state should invest in its future with law and medical schools for the university system. Give Alaskans in-state medical and law school opportunities and stem the brain drain, he said.

Kawasaki survived redistricting and is heading back to Juneau with new faces and new energy. And he's already pre-filed a bill that, if passed, would give birth to an Institute of Medicine at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. The Anchorage campus would house a School of Law. 

Alaska remains the only state in the union that doesn't offer a law school. There's no medical school here that accredits doctors. No veterinarian school to mint animal doctors to treat our notoriously well-loved pets.

House Bill 43 will need a healthy dose of fortune and friendship to succeed where prior efforts failed. But high school graduates need jobs. Retirees need health care. Everyone needs a lawyer, someday. Why not grow Alaska's own professional class, Kawasaki asked in a statement announcing his bill.

"Alaska shouldn't deny opportunity to its best and brightest or export their talents, and we shouldn't have to import professionals from the Lower 48 who don't have a connection to our state," he said, adding:

The University of Alaska should be the model state for rural healthcare, alternative medicine, tribal and environmental law. Medical rotations and residencies in Alaska continue to be filled. The Alaska Family Medicine Residency program has an extremely high rate of return in which 70% of the 55 graduates have remained in Alaska. The study shows that students tend to remain in the area in which they earn their degree. Legal clerkships in the judicial system and for agencies in Alaska are also coveted by many third year students.