The University of Texas Board of Regents late last month unanimously approved the first medical school in East Texas – and the 16th in the state – at The University of Texas Health Science Center in Tyler.
The school, which UT officials say could open by 2023, still faces several levels of approval before admitting any students. The regents’ action authorizes the UT System and the health science center to work with the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, the Texas Legislature, and medical licensing and accrediting agencies to make the school operational.
The medical school is designed to improve medical services in a part of the state with a disproportionately large number of medical needs, Board of Regents Chair Kevin Eltife said at a press conference.
A 2016 report by the UT System and the health science center showed that if the 35-county area around Tyler were its own state, it would rank 49th nationally in heart disease mortality, last in stroke mortality, and 45th in overall mortality. Texas as a state ranks 31st in overall mortality.
The health science center announced plans in November to add 200 new residency spots in 2020 for critical specialties, including internal medicine, surgery, obstetrics and gynecology, pediatrics, and psychiatry.
With those residencies in place, medical students at the new school could complete their entire medical training in Tyler, says Mr. Eltife, formerly mayor of Tyler and a state senator. Numerous studies show that new physicians tend to practice in regions where they do their residencies.
“A medical school in Tyler will give East Texans the chance to pursue their career aspirations without having to leave the region to do so,” Mr. Eltife said in a press release.
The new medical school was spurred in by part by a national physician shortage.
Texas ranks 47th in the nation for its ratio of primary-care physicians per 100,000 people, but 3rd in its retention of medical school students and residents, according to a 2018 study by the American Association of Medical Colleges.
Four new schools have opened in Texas since 2016: The University of Texas at Austin Dell Medical School; The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine; the University of the Incarnate Word School of Osteopathic Medicine in San Antonio; and a Fort Worth medical school jointly run by Texas Christian University and the University of North Texas Health Science Center.
Two more will open in 2020: the University of Houston School of Medicine and Sam Houston State University College of Osteopathic Medicine, which is in Conroe.