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Gov. Abbott, other leaders celebrate groundbreaking of upcoming UT Tyler medical school

This medical school will be the first for Northeast Texas and the seventh for the University of Texas System. The first class will be welcomed this summer.

TYLER, Texas — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott called the groundbreaking for the UT Tyler medical school building on Monday a "remarkable step forward" for health care access and the local economy.

Abbott was joined by several state and local leaders in the education and political arenas for the groundbreaking ceremony of the $308 million medical education building that will house UT Tyler’s new School of Medicine.

"This is an extraordinary day for Tyler, an extraordinary for East Texas," Abbott said.

Abbott shared in his remarks that a 10-year-old girl came up to him for a photo and told him she wanted to be a doctor and go to medical school in Tyler.

"What this does is it inspires generations of people to seek access to education in fields like medicine and health care," he said, adding this development will make a generational change in East Texas.

This medical school will be the first for Northeast Texas and the seventh for the University of Texas System. The school is set to welcome its first class this summer.

According to the UT System, the future medical education building, located on Beckham Ave., will be five stories tall and almost 248,000 square feet in the heart of Tyler’s medical district in Midtown. The building is expected to be completed in 2025. 

The building will include classrooms, simulation labs, clinical and operating room training spaces, and multipurpose event and lecture spaces for the UT Tyler School of Medicine and graduate medical education programs, the UT System statement said.

Abbott shared one of his priorities is increasing access to health care in Texas, especially rural areas. He called the groundbreaking a historical moment. 

"That's one thing this medical school will provide - more expert care to people in smaller areas around them that really need access to high quality health care," Abbott said. "Lives will be saved by the new health care professionals right here in East Texas. East Texans deserve better access to health care. Now, they are going to get it."

He also recognized the doctors, nurses and staff who will come out of the medical school and do life-saving work for the community.

Several local representatives attended the ceremony, including state Reps. Jay Dean, Matt Schaefer, Cole Hefner and Gary VanDeaver and state Sen. Bryan Hughes. 

U.S. Congressman Nathaniel Moran, Tyler Mayor Don Warren, Tyler city council members, 12th Court of Appeals justices, county commissioners and UT System leaders were also in attendance.

Kevin Eltife, chairman of the UT System Board of Regents, said the medical school's progress marks years of efforts by educators, leaders, elected officials, philanthropists and community partners.

Eltife, who is a former Tyler mayor, recalled being born at Mother Frances Hospital, not far from the medical school building site. He said his mother and the Tyler's caring community raised him and his siblings.

"We are all here because we care about future generations, and we want to pay forward the blessings that have been bestowed upon all of us," he said. 

Once the medical school opens, Eltife said it will be a "game changer" for students and families throughout all of Northeast Texas and impact the economy significantly. 

Eltife noted the medical school has received a great amount of philanthropic support beginning with the $80 million donation from the East Texas Medical Center Foundation in February 2020.

Other forms of donations include:

  • A $100 million bond over the next 10 years from the UT Board of Regents
  • $10 million from the Robert M. Rogers Foundation to support mental and behavioral health education at the new medical school.
  • $4 million from the R.W. Fair Foundation to fully fund the first class of UT Tyler medical students, followed by a $5 million gift for pathways programs and scholarships to cover tuition of the second class.

Officials were able to have $200 million in philanthropy funding in hand when the project was presented to the Texas Legislature for approval, Eltife said. 

He thanked Abbott and the Texas Legislature, adding that he's proud of what this community has done through donations and support. 

UT Tyler President Dr. Kirk Calhoun said UT Tyler is honored to host this medical school right here in East Texas. 

"We take this responsibility very seriously and we will work hard to make you proud," Calhoun said. 

UT System Chancellor J.B. Milliken thanked officials for their support of the medical school, including Eltife and Abbott and their leadership. He added it's a great time for UT Tyler and the entire UT System.

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