ETMC unveils corporate history in conjunction with Texas A&M

Tyler, Texas – A host of healthcare and community leaders celebrated the introduction of "First in East Texas:  the history and legacy of the East Texas Medical Center Regional Healthcare System" today.

The 223-page volume was researched and written through a partnership between ETMC and the Texas A&M Health Science Center, School of Rural Public Health. A luncheon on the ETMC campus brought together the book's editorial team, board members and numerous people interviewed from across East Texas.

"In 2011, we joyfully recognized the 60th anniversary of the ETMC system throughout East Texas," said Elmer G. Ellis, president/CEO of the ETMC Regional Healthcare System. "That time of reflection led me to consider the fact that we were losing many of the men and women who founded and fostered our healthcare organization with such a spirit of service and dedication to others."

Once ETMC decided to undertake the writing of a major corporate history, it enlisted the help of Texas A&M University's School of Rural Public Health. Ellis explained that ETMC already had a strong relationship with the university and this particular school, so it was a natural fit.

"The resulting partnership became a labor of love for both ETMC and our A&M colleagues, as more than 90 oral history interviews took place in 2011 and 2012," added Ellis, who served as executive editor of "First in East Texas."

The senior writers and editorial team consisted of:  James Alexander, PhD, associate professor; Janet Helduser, MA, senior program coordinator; Nancy Kinkler, MPA, FACHE, research assistant; all from the Department of Health Policy and Management at A&M's School of Rural Public Health, and Marty Wiggins, FACHE, director of the ETMC Foundation within the ETMC Regional Healthcare System.

"As always, a history – whether of a person or an organization – is primarily a collection of stories," noted Wiggins. "The personal stories we collected through the oral history process illustrate the vision of the men and women who devoted their lives to advancing healthcare for East Texas through ETMC's mission. The research process in itself was a remarkable journey."

Dr. Alexander explained that Texas A&M's School of Rural Public Health was eager to take on the assignment of "First in East Texas."

"I recall that by the year 2000, it had become clear to most in the healthcare industry – including academicians involved in rural health – that ETMC had developed an enviable model for a true rural health network, consisting of a large tertiary hospital and numerous regional hospitals," he said. "This highly integrated system became an important teaching model in our masters of health administration curriculum at Texas A&M."

Helduser added that "First in East Texas" was made possible through the many people who provided in-depth interviews. "Each person who provided an oral history interview had a unique story to tell," she said. "It was exciting to hear their enthusiasm for this project as they relayed the impact of ETMC in their life and community."

Many people and organizations also contributed photographs to the book, including the Smith County Historical Society. Printing of the book was made possible through past gifts to the ETMC Foundation and a generous gift from The Vaughn Construction Community Foundation in support of this legacy project.

"First in East Texas" begins in the late 1940s, as community leaders in Tyler considered the need for a new hospital that would help serve the entire East Texas region. Their dream was realized in September 1951, with the opening of Medical Center Hospital (now ETMC Tyler). The book then covers early leadership, growth of the Tyler facility and the emerging opportunities for regional growth through hospital affiliations. It profiles ETMC's major service areas from emergency/trauma medicine to cardiac, cancer, neurology and other areas of clinical excellence to rehabilitation. The book also covers the team of ETMC employees, physicians and volunteers, the corporate structure and a timeline beginning in 1947.

"First in East Texas" is now catalogued in the Library of Congress and will be available through libraries and historical societies throughout East Texas. It also is available for purchase by the public through the ETMC Tyler Gift Shop and the ETMC Foundation website, Call 903-596-3645, for additional information.