Institutions, like people, have defining moments. These are times when a decision reverberates in ways that only become clear decades later. The University of Texas has had these moments before, and it is about to have one again with the possible creation of a cutting-edge medical school.
During the University’s 129-year history, the Texas Exes has watched for, encouraged, promoted, (and sometimes warded off ) defining moments. As an organization that exists to champion UT-Austin and help it reach its constitutional mandate, we are wholly invested in acting when these opportunities arise.
We have been hearing about a medical school in Austin for years. But for economic and political reasons, it has only recently emerged as a real possibility. Now there is some serious momentum.
In May, our UT System Board of Regents made a far-sighted investment in our flagship campus, committing $30 million a year for eight years, then $25 million in perpetuity, toward an Austin medical school. The Seton family of hospitals also committed $250 million to build a state-of-the-art teaching hospital. And the medical school is part of a broader effort to improve health in Central Texas that’s ably led by state Sen. Kirk Watson, with wide support from a coalition of community groups and civic organizations.
Creating a leading medical school as part of UT-Austin would be a defining moment in our history. It would lead to a teaching and learning revolution across campus, from disciplines as varied as kinesiology, nursing, pharmacy, and biomedical engineering. Central Texas’ burgeoning biotech industry could explode as new opportunities emerge for taking research to the bedside and commercializing treatments and devices. Conservative estimates suggest a medical school would bring 15,000 new jobs and $2 billion a year in economic activity to the region and state.
Of the nation’s top 15 public universities, UT-Austin is one of just four without a medical school. Building one could give our alma mater one of the final assets needed to catch and even pull ahead of our competitor schools.
For these reasons, the Texas Exes Board of Directors has unanimously resolved to support the creation of a first-class medical school at UT-Austin. It is, we believe, a rare opportunity for our school to leap far ahead. Its full implications cannot yet be measured, but we support it wholeheartedly.
The last piece of the medical-school puzzle will likely rest with Travis County citizens in the form of a ballot initiative. When and if this does come to pass, we want you to support it.
While the next critical element of this process is up to the citizens of Travis County, this is a statewide opportunity. As a resident of Houston, I and thousands of other Exes in the area understand, support, and promote our health-science center here, as San Antonio- and Dallas-area alumni do for their health-science schools.
Read the September|October issue of The Alcalde for full details about the potential medical school, and be on the lookout for communications from the Texas Exes in the coming weeks.
John Beckworth is the president of the Texas Exes.
Photo courtesy Jasleen Kaur on Flickr.