ETMC Foundation pledges $80 million toward Tyler medical school

UT System will ask Board of Regents for approval of school on Feb. 26
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Updated: Feb. 12, 2020 at 8:27 PM CST
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From UT Health

TYLER, Texas - Less than a week following The University of Texas System’s announcement of its intention to launch a medical school in East Texas, The University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler received a historic gift commitment as the first response to a call for private and public support needed to fund it.

The East Texas Medical Center Foundation announced today that it will give $80 million to help fund the university’s new educational venture – aimed at significantly transforming health education, care and outcomes in a rapidly growing region of the state.

The Foundation’s gift represents the largest single contribution ever made to establish a medical school in Texas and the largest gift made to an institution or organization in East Texas, a region of 1.3 million people.

Community, business and health care leaders and elected officials who have long pushed for access to better health care for the region joined faculty and staff from the UT Health Science Center at Tyler at Willow Brook Country Club today to celebrate the announcement.

“The Foundation board is honored to make this essential investment in our community,” said Elam Swann, chairman of the East Texas Medical Center Foundation board and a Tyler businessman and philanthropist. “At the core of a region’s vitality is its commitment to a healthy society. We have a desire and a responsibility to participate in that effort, and we hope our gift will inspire other individuals and organizations to participate.”

Kirk A. Calhoun, president of the UT Health Science Center at Tyler, described the gift as “monumental” for the East Texas region.

“The East Texas Medical Center Foundation’s commitment to advancing medicine in East Texas marks an unprecedented financial commitment and vote of confidence in our university, and for that, we are eternally grateful,” Calhoun said. “We pledge to be excellent stewards of this gift as we serve the community. This contribution supporting the operations of the proposed medical school will accelerate East Texas’ ascendancy as a destination of choice for medical school students, physicians and other health professionals to train and live; for families to remain and industries to locate; and to significantly improve patient outcomes.”

Last week, the UT System held a press conference in Tyler announcing it would seek approval from the Board of Regents to establish a medical school there; the Regents are set to deliberate the authorization at their next meeting on Feb. 26. Afterward, the UT System would work with the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, the Texas Legislature and other licensing and accrediting agencies to bring the school to fruition.

Board of Regents Chairman Kevin P. Eltife, who announced the medical school plan last week and strongly emphasized the need for public and private support to realize it, addressed the East Texas

Medical Center Foundation board members, conveying how the gift will forever change the institution, the city and the entire region.

“Your gift means so much for UT and beyond,” Eltife said. “It will impact the region in countless positive ways that we cannot even capture today. We know it will expand opportunities for patients who need primary and specialty care, enhance the capacity of our local hospitals to treat and heal, and boost our economy and biomedical research capabilities, for starters. Moreover, a gift of this magnitude – so soon after our announcement – will allow UT to accelerate the launch of the medical school, benefitting all towns and communities in Northeast Texas – and will have a positive impact on all hospital systems here including UT Health East Texas, CHRISTUS and Baylor Scott & White. Your commitment represents the start of a whole new, promising era for a healthier Northeast Texas, and we could not be more grateful.”

The proposed medical school serves as the missing link to complete educational pathways for careers in medicine. Combined with graduate healthcare degrees and residency programs already in place at UT Health Science Center at Tyler and undergraduate health-related programs and a pre-med academy at The University of Texas at Tyler, the new medical school will allow students the ability to complete their full medical education in Tyler.

Aside from immense educational opportunities, the addition of a medical school will provide medically underserved, rural areas outside of Tyler a significant benefit – more doctors and quicker access to physical and mental health services.

A recent report from the Texas Medical Association has identified a record-setting pace of a growing physician workforce in Texas, especially in urban areas, so the timing of a new medical school to expand additional services to rural areas has been very well received.

In making its gift, the East Texas Medical Center Foundation expressed its profound interest in rural health care and mental and behavioral health, and it has asked UT Health Science Center at Tyler to place an emphasis on those issues.

UT Health Science Center at Tyler is rapidly expanding residency programs. It recently added three residency programs in general surgery, internal medicine, and a rural psychiatry program, now awaiting accreditation. Accompanying the growth of residency offerings, UT Health Science Center at Tyler is also adding more than 200 new residency slots within its new health system, UT Health East Texas. Because physicians tend to stay and practice within close proximity of the region where their education and training was received, the new medical school will serve as a catalyst to encourage physicians to remain in the community for the long term.

“This incredible gift, combined with the regents’ recent allocation of $95 million to construct two new health buildings in Tyler, represents an extraordinary, shared commitment to medical education and health care in East Texas that will fundamentally improve career opportunities and health outcomes for the region,” said James B. Milliken, chancellor of the UT System. “There is of course much work ahead, but our partnership with the East Texas Medical Center Foundation gives us all the head start we need to make our ambitious plans a reality. We stand committed to our shared vision, and I am convinced that together, we will be enormously successful.”

This next step in the commitment to advance the region follows UT Health Science Center at Tyler’s purchase into the East Texas Medical Center hospital system in 2018. The purchase, in a unique partnership with Ardent Health Services, created the UT Health East Texas academic health system.

Comprising UT Health Science Center at Tyler, 10 hospitals and 53 clinics, UT Health East Texas sprawls the region to provide access to all East Texans.

A medical school will also carry a significant economic impact that totals in the billions of dollars, while creating thousands of direct and indirect jobs in East Texas. In an economic impact analysis conducted by The Perryman Group, a new medical school in Tyler is projected to produce an additional $1.9 billion annually, as well as the creation of 18,145 new jobs – developments unlike anything Tyler has ever experienced.

KLTV's Blake Holland was at Wednesday morning's announcement.

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