UT-Tyler receives $80 million gift to build first East Texas medical school

Laura Morales

The University of Texas at Tyler received an $80 million gift from the East Texas Medical Center Foundation on Wednesday for its medical school, which the UT System announced last week they will be establishing as the first medical school in East Texas. 

The East Texas Medical Center Foundation gift is the largest contribution ever made to establish a medical school in Texas. 

Kirk Calhoun, president of the UT Health Science Center at Tyler, said this gift will help advance the mission of bringing quality health care to the region while incentivizing students to work there. Calhoun said there is a deficit of medical professionals in the region. 

“We have some very poor health outcomes out in Northeast Texas,” Calhoun said. “Many rural communities are experiencing hospital closures and shortages of positions. We want to create an environment in the school where our graduates will want to work in smaller communities like those surrounding Tyler.”


He said the fund will be used for operational costs while enrollment is growing, including faculty hiring and equipment. The program will offer graduate degrees, undergraduate training and residency programs. Once the UT System Board of Regents approves the school at their meeting next week, UT-Tyler will go forward with planning.

Kevin Eltife, Board of Regents chairman, initially called for funding to the center after the announcement last week. As the former state senator of the region, he said in a press conference announcing the contribution that it will mostly benefit the underserved area of East Texas.

“Your gift means so much for UT and beyond,” Eltife said. “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.” 

Elam Swann, chairman of the East Texas Medical Center Foundation board, said the center has been particularly concerned with the growing need for mental health care in the region. He said the center donated to the school because of the president’s commitment to addressing mental health care in the curriculum. 

“We are facing huge growing mental health issues across our state and nation and East Texas in particular,” Swann said. “We have more people in need than doctors we have to help. We hope this new medical center will teach tomorrow’s doctors who will be trained to treat everyone, whether physical or mental, from right here in Tyler to our medically underserved rural areas.