Q&A: New UT System executive vice chancellor discusses future plans for system health institutions

Areeba Amer

Former Texas state representative John Zerwas assumed his new position as executive vice chancellor for health affairs for the UT System Oct. 1. 

As part of his new position, he oversees and provides guidance to the system’s six health institutions. The Daily Texan sat down with Zerwas to discuss his plans for the health institutions.  

The Daily Texan: What are your goals in the new position?

John Zerwas: My focus is going to be how the Health Affairs Office and I can contribute to these already exceptional institutions and bring to a higher level … whether that be … quality and clinical performance … attracting additional research dollars, or (attracting) the best of the brightest to go into these various
health institutions. 

DT: How does your prior experience in the Texas Legislature guide your new role?

Zerwas: I found the background of serving in the legislature excellent preparation for assuming this kind of a role. Ultimately, the University of Texas is, in essence, an agency of the state, and the legislature has responsibility for a lot of aspects of
(the system). 


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DT: What do you hope to improve about the workings of the Office of Health Affairs?

Zerwas: (I am going) to look at what I can do to bring … these health science centers together, so we can really have bottom-up conversations as to what can we do to elevate our presence … The opportunities that (health institutions) have for sharing practices and regular conversations may currently be limited to some degree.

DT: Is there anything you believe the health institutions are particularly struggling with, and if so, how do you plan on approaching it? 

Zerwas: The generation of revenue that allows you to continue to attract faculty is incredibly important. (The Office of Health Affairs is) looking at ways we can help the clinical enterprise generate the kind of revenue that’s necessary to continue to attract some of these incredibly strong faculty, which ultimately leads to the attraction of students.

DT: There have been discussions on how higher education institutions, including the UT System, will handle Texas’ increasing population. How does this impact the six health institutions?

Zerwas: I believe that (the health institutions) are going to do everything they can to keep up with that and to continue to deliver care … We want to be in a position to provide the kinds of programs and training that will help address what the needs are out there.

DT: Would potential expansions of UT health institutions lead to an increase in cost for the consumers?

Zerwas: The whole cost of care is a fairly complicated thing that’s going on these days … and it’s an issue being talked about right now … I think Texas is probably going to be at the forefront of really looking at how you ultimately deliver high quality (care) at the lowest possible cost.