Lawmaker wants Alaska's 1st medical, law schools

Fairbanks, Alaska (AP) January 2011

An Alaska lawmaker has pledged to create the state's first medical schools and law schools.

State Rep. Scott Kawasaki said he would file legislation before the Alaska Assembly reconvenes in mid-January that would create the graduate programs.

Kawasaki said he envisions the medical school at the research-heavy Fairbanks campus, and the law school in Anchorage.

Alaska is the only state without a law school, and one of the few states without a medical school, according to the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.

The idea for a law or medical school isn't new. University regents have periodically discussed adding them, and at least one former state attorney general has advocated creating a law school.

Kawasaki said Alaska suffers from doctor shortages, and high legal and health care costs.

The state “should be the model state for rural health care, alternative medicine, tribal and environmental law,” Kawasaki said in a statement. “Alaska shouldn't deny opportunity to the best and brightest and export their talents, nor import professionals from the Lower 48 who don't have a connection to our state.”

The ideas would need to be matched against the system's academic master plan and its strategic plan, both of which are spelled out in the state's statutes on education, libraries and museums.

University of Alaska system spokeswoman Kate Ripley said adding graduate programs would require an analysis of student demand and the work force needed to staff both schools.

“All of those things would need to be done before starting a brand new program, which is what a law school or a medical school would be,” Ripley said.

Kawasaki, who earned a degree in biochemistry before entering politics, said he would turn to university leadership for advice as the bill emerges for debate.