University of Texas System seeking approval for a medical school in Tyler

Kevin Eltife: “I believe the need is here, and the time is now"

UT Health Announcement

TYLER, TEXAS (KLTV) - During a Thursday morning news conference in downtown Tyler, officials with the UT System announced their intentions of establishing a medical school in Tyler.

Kevin Eltife, the chairman of the Board of Regents for the UT System, announced their plans to seek approval from the Board of Regents on Feb. 26 to establish a medical school in Tyler.

“I believe the need is here, and the time is now,” Eltife said.

Kevin Eltife, the chairman of the Board of Regents for the UT System, joined by UTHSC President Kirk A. Calhoun.
Kevin Eltife, the chairman of the Board of Regents for the UT System, joined by UTHSC President Kirk A. Calhoun. (Source: Blake Holland/KLTV)

“Leaders from the UT System and the two UT institutions in Tyler joined together at Plaza Tower in downtown Tyler to announce a plan to elevate the region’s higher education and health care opportunities,” a press release stated. “They optimistically explained their case to a group of regional business, civic, educational, and medical leaders and elected officials at a morning news conference.”

The agenda for the UT System Board of Regents’ next meeting on Feb. 26 will include a proposal to establish a medical school in Tyler, according to the press release. The authorization will allow “notifications and other activities to proceed with the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and other licensing and accrediting agencies.”

Under the new plan, future physicians could complete their entire education and training in Tyler with established medical residencies already in place, the press release stated.

“A medical school in Tyler will give East Texans the chance to pursue their career aspirations without having to leave the region to do so,” said Eltife, a former Tyler mayor and state senator. “More importantly, it will increase the number of physicians and critical specialty areas to serve the region, which ultimately will enhance health outcomes and benefit all East Texans. And having more health care professionals in the area will have a positive impact on hospitals and hospital systems in the region including UT Health East Texas, CHRISTUS Trinity Mother Frances and Baylor Scott & White Texas Spine & Joint.”

If the new medical school is approved, it will be the seventh in the UT System. In 2016, both UT Austin and UT Rio Grande Valley opened medical schools, the press release stated.

“Health outcomes in East Texas lag the rest of the state and the nation, and today’s announcement represents an ambitious strategy to change that going forward. With six medical schools—and our two Tyler institutions, the University of Texas System is uniquely positioned to develop a new school in Tyler, specifically focused on the needs of the region,” Chancellor James B. Milliken said in the press release. “The strength of UT Health Science Center at Tyler and UT Tyler, particularly as they join forces, and our experience operating very successful medical schools across Texas, will provide a solid foundation for success.”

In regard to a medical school’s economic impact on the area, the press release from the UT System cited the Perryman Group, a Texas economic research and analysis firm with ties to East Texas ore than 30 years. The Perryman Group credited the existing UT facilities in Tyler with providing an annual economic impact of $1.7 billion, including $80.1 million in tax receipts and the creation of 21,529 jobs.

“According to The Perryman Group’s analysis, we can anticipate that a new medical school would produce an additional $1.9 billion annually, as well as the creation of 18,145 new jobs. These developments are unlike anything Tyler has ever seen,” said Tom Mullins, president and CEO of the Tyler Economic Development Council.

UT Health Science Center at Tyler President Kirk A. Calhoun said a medical school in Tyler would have “a cascade of positive multiplier effects.” He added that it’s exciting to see momentum building to support and invest in East Texas.

“It certainly is a huge announcement and it’s just going to get bigger,” Calhoun told KLTV. “When we look at the healthcare needs in northeast Texas, and how we need to fill those needs. The hospital closures, the lack of physicians in some of our rural communities. Having a medical school located in a place like northeast Texas dedicated to supplying physicians for northeast Texas is going to be a game changer.”

“We are profoundly grateful to the UT System for its investment in the future healthcare in East Texas,” said Michael Tidwell, UT Tyler President. “These programmatic and facilities investments will improve healthcare education, research, and clinical services for generations to come.”

The Board of Regents are set to meet on Feb. 26 in Austin. If approved, the next step would be getting legislative support in the next session.

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