Texas Legislature approves new UT medical school in Tyler

Published: May. 28, 2021 at 10:24 AM CDT|Updated: May. 28, 2021 at 10:25 AM CDT
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TYLER, Texas (News release) - Authorization for the Health Science Center at UT Tyler to allocate its resources to attain accreditation of a doctor of medicine (MD) program—a step needed to create a new medical school—has passed through the Texas Legislature and will soon be on its way to Governor Abbott’s desk for signature. The authorization is included in Senate Bill 1, the state’s biennial budget.

Once approved, the new medical school will be the seventh in The University of Texas System and the first in Northeast Texas. UT institutions award nearly 15,000 health-related degrees and certificates annually, including more than half of the state’s medical degrees.

Led by Chairman Kevin P. Eltife, the UT System Board of Regents approved a proposal in February 2020 to launch efforts to establish a medical school in Tyler. The new school has been championed not only by the regents but also by city, county and state leaders who cited a need to address the shortage of health care professionals in the growing region. By adding a medical school to the academic health and residency programs already available in Tyler, future UT physicians will be able to obtain a comprehensive medical education without leaving the area and remain in the region to live and practice.

Shortly after the Board’s plan was announced last year, the East Texas Medical Center Foundation donated a record-setting $80 million to assist with associated medical school planning and operational costs. Since then, UT officials have worked with the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, the Texas Legislature and other licensing and accrediting agencies to bring the school to fruition. Pending the Governor’s signature of Senate Bill 1, UT Tyler will work to complete the accreditation process with hopes of having the school fully operational by June 2023.

“Texas has the proud distinction of being the nation’s best state for business. Access to excellent health care and higher education is an important factor for businesses and families who wish to make Northeast Texas their permanent home,” Eltife said. “Our new medical school will be a significant boost to our region’s future. The Texas Legislature’s support of this initiative to date, under the leadership of Governor Abbott, Lieutenant Governor Patrick and Speaker Phelan, is deeply appreciated.”

As it heads to the Governor’s desk, the legislation has received strong backing from Senate Finance Committee Chairman Jane Nelson (Flower Mound) and Finance Committee members Senator Joan Huffman (Houston) and Senator Robert Nichols (Jacksonville). Both Huffman and Nichols also participated in Senate conference committee discussions.

Additionally, House Appropriations Chairman Greg Bonnen (Friendswood) carried support in the House, while Senator Bryan Hughes (Mineola) and the entire East Texas legislative delegation rallied early endorsements for the school.

“On behalf of UT Tyler and its health science center, I extend our deepest gratitude to the countless people who are working to bring the medical school to realization—our regents, elected leaders and generous donors,” UT Tyler President Kirk A. Calhoun said. “Our top commitment going forward will be to deliver an exceptional medical school that will serve Northeast Texas.”

The new medical school will not only expand access to health care for patients and education and research opportunities for students but will also provide an economic boon to Tyler and the region.

“I am especially grateful to Chairman Eltife and President Calhoun, who well understood the need for this medical school, and their vision was enthusiastically embraced by the regents, the community and the Texas Legislature,” UT System Chancellor James B. Milliken said. “This recent action by our state leaders is key to health and prosperity in the region, and the UT System is fully committed to its great success.”

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