The UT System announced plans to establish the only medical school in East Texas at a press conference Thursday.
Kirk Calhoun, president of the UT Health Science Center at Tyler, said the region has historically faced a deficit in health care workers as the population has grown. Calhoun has worked with UT System Board of Regents Chairman Kevin Eltife to allocate resources to Tyler since Eltife was Tyler’s state representative from 2004 to 2017.
“I remember chasing him into the men’s (restrooms) begging for resources for our campus and for our region with respect to health care,” Calhoun said. “There was not a legislator at the Capitol who was more respected.”
Eltife said at the press conference he would propose the establishment of the school at the next Board of Regents meeting Feb. 26. If the proposition is approved, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and other state accrediting agencies will review the program for approval in the 2021 legislative session. Several state representatives attended the news conference in support of creating the school.
“This community has always amazed me with its drive and determination over the years to accomplish great things for its citizens,” Eltife said in the press conference. “I know we are all up to the task of working together to establish a medical school right here in East Texas.”
The Board of Regents allocated $95 million in investment for health science center facilities at its November meeting. In December, the board voted to integrate UT-Tyler and the UT Health Science Center at Tyler into one institution. The Perryman Group, a Texas economic research firm, reports UT-Tyler facilities have contributed $1.7 billion in annual economic impact and contributes 21,529 jobs to the region.
The UT Health Science Center at Tyler has an established residency program, and Calhoun said the school will allow students to complete their entire education and training in Tyler.
Eltife said the medical school will provide a workforce pipeline to the three surrounding hospitals, which have faced staffing shortages in the past.
“We have three great hospital systems right here in Tyler,” Eltife said at the press conference. “Having more health care professionals in our area will have a positive impact on all our hospitals, not to mention the huge economic impact it will have on our entire region.”