TYLER, Texas — Leaders from the University of Texas System and the University of Texas at Tyler met at Willow Brook Country Club on Wednesday to make a major announcement regarding the medical school in the Rose City.
Back in May after legislators gave their approval to create the new school, the bill was then sent to Gov. Greg Abbott's desk for final authorization.
During the press conference, the R.W, Fair Foundation, a private foundation in Tyler, announced they would provide all 40 students of the inaugural class of The Health Science Center at UT Tyler four-year scholarships totaling $4 million. Each student will receive a yearly scholarship for tuition, which will be about $25,000 per year.
"The foundation makes grants to organizations engaged in culture and the arts, community improvement, health and human services, education, medical research and mental health, recreation, religion, youth activities, and other related causes," the TSHA says.
“The new medical school is the most significant economic driver in East Texas since the oil boom of the 1930s,” said Bob Garrett, president of the R.W. Fair Foundation and Fair Oil. “We believe the school will improve the health and quality of life in all of East Texas, and it deserves the support of everyone in our region.”
“This is monumental,” said Kevin P. Eltife, chairman of The University of Texas System Board of Regents. “We are profoundly grateful to the R.W. Fair Foundation for its investment in the future of our medical students in East Texas. This gracious gift is the perfect augmentation to the $80 million commitment from ETMC Foundation that helped launched the creation of the medical school. These are great affirmations that Tyler and East Texans are all on board. It’s especially gratifying to see momentum build around investments in students.”
The school already has $100 million in philanthropy donated to the school, with another $200 million set aside.
The new medical school will work to meet the healthcare needs of East Texans, focusing on primary care, rural healthcare and the overall well-being of the local population. Aside from physical health, the medical school will have a robust psychiatry program that specializes in the mental health of children and adolescents.
Kirk A. Calhoun, president of The University of Texas at Tyler stated that the new medical school will increase the number of physicians and critical specialty areas to serve the region, which ultimately will enhance the health outcomes and benefit all East Texas.
“Our research shows that we need to improve healthcare access for people all across East Texas,” said Dr. Calhoun. “By 2024, we expect to have 206 residents, or doctors in training, living and working here.”
A new study by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) projects that the country will face a shortfall of up to 139,000 physicians by 2033. An aging population, including more physicians reaching retirement age, is the reason given for the potential shortfall. In East Texas, an increase in population will also increase the need for medical care. A second study by the AAMC found that more than half of physicians are practicing in the state where they did their residency training.
“The medical school will give our local students an option to stay close to home,” said Randall L. Roberts, vice president of the R.W. Fair Foundation. “For years, we have sent our brightest elsewhere to medical school. The sad fact is that many of them have not returned home to practice.”
The health science center will also attract doctors who will serve a dual purpose as educators and providers. These doctors will bring new and expanded specialties to East Texas. This will allow more East Texas residents to get the specialized care they need close to their homes, instead of traveling to Dallas, Houston or elsewhere.
“It’s now time for our citizens to step up to support this school,” said Garrett. “I hope this investment will spur others to follow with their own support, whether it’s scholarships or a financial contribution to programs or research at the school. When it comes to the health of our family, friends and others in East Texas, we need to financially rally around our new school.”
Pending accreditation approval from the LCME, the School of Medicine hopes to enroll its first class in June 2023.