It’s an open secret that the United States can’t educate all the doctors the country needs. There aren’t enough slots in existing medical schools domestically, and starting a medical school requires such tremendous investment that only rarely is it tried.
Today one of the nation’s fastest-growing cities—in its second-biggest state—made a huge commitment toward trying it.
The UT System Board of Regents voted to provide a UT-Austin medical school $30 million annually through its first eight years and $25 million each year thereafter. The money, regents said, would come from Permanent University Fund proceeds.
The funding support came not long after Seton Healthcare Family made a preliminary commitment of $250 million toward building a new teaching hospital. The new facility would replace University Medical Center Brackenridge just down the road from the Forty Acres.
UT-Austin president Bill Powers praised the move on his blog. “The founding of a medical school at UT would be an enormous event in the life of the University, would offer dramatic new opportunities for our students and our faculty, and would advance health care in Central Texas,” he wrote.
Support for the move went beyond the University community. In a letter thanking committee members, Sen. Kirk Watson—perhaps the med school’s biggest proponent—called today’s decision an “exciting, extraordinary vote that will help define Austin as a center for 21st century health care excellence.” The senator, a former mayor of the city and a Baylor grad, began leading the governmental push to build a medical school locally last year.
Watson added: “It’s a huge step toward completing the bridge we’ve been building to a healthier, more prosperous future. And it’s a definitive statement that the University of Texas System is dedicated not only to a medical school in Austin, but also to the unique new community partnership we’ve launched to make it happen.”
The UT System and Seton money won’t be all it takes to build the medical school—not by a long shot. A combination of donations, taxes, and assessments is expected to be used locally. “We’ll be working over the coming weeks to flesh out how that participation should look,” Watson wrote.
Regents also voted Thursday to support a medical school for South Texas.
Patricia M. MNeely:
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Dayma Stewart Smith: