A message printed on bright orange T-shirts seemed to say it all: “Proud to be annexed.”
The shirts and the sea of people wearing them provided a lively backdrop for a Wednesday morning gathering to celebrate the recent voluntary annexation of The University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler into the Tyler city limits.
Tyler city leaders agreed in March to annex the hospital’s 593.11-acre campus, 11937 U.S. Highway 271, after receiving a request from hospital representatives.
Officials representing the health science center and the city came together publicly not only to affirm the new union, but also to announce the formation of a new internship program for business and civic leaders that kicks off in November.
“This is a wonderful day for us,” Dr. Kirk Calhoun, health science center president, said. “Our campus, like The University of Texas at Tyler, is now part of the city of Tyler.”
Calhoun said the facility has enjoyed the distinction of having Tyler in its name, but now it is an official corporate citizen.
The annexation made Tyler one of a handful of Texas cities to have a university medical center that’s part of The University of Texas system, following the lead of Dallas and San Antonio.
Officials said the center already provides a tremendous boon for the area’s economy through revenue generated from patient care, million-dollar biomedical research grants, business expansions, health care training and construction dollars, and also as an employer.
“This institution has always been a critical part of this region,” Mayor Bass said.
The city’s Industry Growth Initiative plan identifies higher education and health care industries as critical components of Tyler’s local economy, the mayor said.
“This is a perfect match for what we’re trying to do,” she said, noting the various technical and educational aspects offered by the facility will be an important player in continuing to boost the economic viability of the area.
To better communicate the positives, Calhoun and the mayor agreed to create a new internship program that includes representatives from the business and community sectors.
Officials believe the new program can be useful for educating business and civic leaders about the health science center, then challenge them to come up with ideas on how to capitalize on it.
“Our big dream is to have a big medical branch here … to train doctors from start to finish,” the mayor said. “That’s not an overnight process.”
“We’ve been working with the city and staff for about six or seven months,” said Mac Griffith, University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler vice president and chief development officer.
About 20 invitations will be sent to area leaders to join the first internship class.
The program is to cover four areas: education, research, patient care and economic development, officials said.
“They will learn about how the health science center operates,” Griffith said.
Topics are expected to include issues such as new technology, physician shortages and medication development, as explained by health experts, scientists and health professionals.