UT missed its chance at a medical school more than a century ago. Now our time has come again. Here, see the resources UT already has in place and the successes from elsewhere it could replicate. Then meet the key players behind the medical school—and find out what it could offer our University, Austin, and Texas.
The birth of The University of Texas was an old-fashioned one—the kind before parents necessarily even knew for sure how many babies they were having.
In 1881, when the vote was taken on where to establish UT, it was like expecting one newborn and delivering twins. There would be a main campus in modest Austin. But the medical school would be in Galveston, the state’s largest and most prosperous city.
Austin wasn’t necessarily upset. This was state politics—the price of getting the main academic campus at all. Tyler and Waco had both wanted the new University of Texas to be located in their respective cities. Austin came to a compromise with Houston and Galveston that allowed Austin to get the rest of UT.
For decades, UT-Austin did consider the UT Medical Branch in Galveston its medical school, referring to it as part of the larger university in progress reports and official documents.
Even so, experts recognized early on that not having the medical school located on the main academic campus was a missed opportunity. Reformer Abraham Flexner, whose report on medical education forever changed the way U.S. doctors were trained, wrote of UT: “It seems a regrettable mischance that located the medical department away from the university. Were it placed at Austin, it would apparently gain in every way.”
That was in 1910. Perennial calls have been raised ever since for a medical school to be established alongside UT-Austin. But nothing has ever been executed.
Now, as Central Texas’ population grows wildly for the third decade straight, the enthusiasm to get it done feels higher than ever before. Leaders at multiple levels, from the state legislature to the city mayor’s office, from hospital to university, agree on the need. They have even started to pony up money.
Still, there is a lot to understand. Who’s behind this big new push? Where could such a school be located in a city where space is at premium? Although most of the funding has already been pledged, are county residents willing to invest in the rest? What do people and institutions stand to gain? Hover over the text, and it will magnify so you can explore the issues behind a major public-policy question and think about how your alma mater could or should change.
Mitzi Irene Nuhn Dreher:
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