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East Texas Medical Center Foundation gives record $80 million gift to help establish UT medical school in Tyler

The East Texas Medical Center Foundation will give the single largest contribution ever made in the region to help establish the proposed University of Texas medical school in Tyler.

Last week the UT System announced it will seek approval for a medical school in Tyler. On Wednesday the East Texas Medical Center Foundation announced an $80 million gift to help support the venture, which is aimed at significantly transforming health education, care and outcomes in the region.

The Foundation’s gift represents the largest single contribution ever made to establish a medical school in Texas and the largest gift made to an institution or organization in East Texas, according to a news release from the UT System.

Community, business and health care leaders and elected officials gathered at Willow Brook Country Club on Wednesday for the announcement.

“The Foundation board is honored to make this essential investment in our community,” said Elam Swann, chairman of the East Texas Medical Center Foundation board and a Tyler businessman and philanthropist. “At the core of a region’s vitality is its commitment to a healthy society. We have a desire and a responsibility to participate in that effort, and we hope our gift will inspire other individuals and organizations to participate.”

Because East Texas Medical Center was a nonprofit, the proceeds of the sale to UT/Ardent went back into the ETMC Foudnation, which enabled them to make such as large gift.

Kirk A. Calhoun, president of the UT Health Science Center at Tyler, described the gift as “monumental” for the East Texas region.

“The East Texas Medical Center Foundation’s commitment to advancing medicine in East Texas marks an unprecedented financial commitment and vote of confidence in our university, and for that, we are eternally grateful,” Calhoun said. “We pledge to be excellent stewards of this gift as we serve the community. This contribution supporting the operations of the proposed medical school will accelerate East Texas’ ascendancy as a destination of choice for medical school students, physicians and other health professionals to train and live; for families to remain and industries to locate; and to significantly improve patient outcomes.”

The UT System Board of Regents will vote whether to approve the authorization at their Feb. 26 meeting. Afterward, the UT System would work with the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, the Texas Legislature and other licensing and accrediting agencies to bring the school to fruition.

Board of Regents Chairman Kevin Eltife, a former Tyler mayor and state senator, said the gift will show lawmakers that the community is committed to bringing this dream to fruition.

“Your gift means so much for UT and beyond,” Eltife said. “It will impact the region in countless positive ways that we cannot even capture today. We know it will expand opportunities for patients who need primary and specialty care, enhance the capacity of our local hospitals to treat and heal, and boost our economy and biomedical research capabilities, for starters. Moreover, a gift of this magnitude – so soon after our announcement – will allow UT to accelerate the launch of the medical school, benefitting all towns and communities in Northeast Texas – and will have a positive impact on all hospital systems here including UT Health East Texas, CHRISTUS and Baylor Scott & White. Your commitment represents the start of a whole new, promising era for a healthier Northeast Texas, and we could not be more grateful.”

In making its gift, the East Texas Medical Center Foundation expressed its profound interest in rural health care and mental and behavioral health, and it has asked UT Health Science Center at Tyler to place an emphasis on those issues.

“We are incredibly fortunate in our community to have this kind of support,” Eltife said.

UT Health Science Center at Tyler is rapidly expanding residency programs. It recently added three residency programs in general surgery, internal medicine, and a rural psychiatry program, now awaiting accreditation. Accompanying the growth of residency offerings, UT Health Science Center at Tyler is also adding more than 200 new residency slots within its new health system, UT Health East Texas. Because physicians tend to stay and practice within close proximity of the region where their education and training was received, the new medical school will serve as a catalyst to encourage physicians to remain in the community for the long term, according to the news release.

“This incredible gift, combined with the regents’ recent allocation of $95 million to construct two new health buildings in Tyler, represents an extraordinary, shared commitment to medical education and health care in East Texas that will fundamentally improve career opportunities and health outcomes for the region,” said James B. Milliken, chancellor of the UT System. “There is of course much work ahead, but our partnership with the East Texas Medical Center Foundation gives us all the head start we need to make our ambitious plans a reality. We stand committed to our shared vision, and I am convinced that together, we will be enormously successful.”

An analysis by the Perryman group showed that a medical school would have an economic impact of billions of dollars. A new medical school in Tyler is projected to produce an additional $1.9 billion annually, as well as the creation of 18,145 new jobs.

TJC and UT Tyler brass ensembles to play at state music convention

Some brass students at Tyler Junior College and The University of Texas at Tyler are tooting their own horns at a state music convention.

Both the TJC Trombone Choir and the UT Tyler Trumpet Ensemble are performing Thursday at the Texas Music Educators Association’s convention in San Antonio.

TMEA is one of the largest music conventions in the country, attracting some 10,000 music educators and about 30,000 attendees from around the world each year.

Before departing for the convention, both brass groups performed in a joint concert Tuesday night at UT Tyler’s Braithwaite recital hall.

The TJC group will play a new piece at TMEA by Micah Bell, one of TJC’s music professors, said Heather Mensch, the college’s music department chair and director of low brass.

“We are so proud of our hardworking students, and we look forward to having the TMEA audience see the results of the time and preparation they’ve put into this performance,” Mensch said.

Heavy rains led to roadway, lake closures in Tyler and Smith County

The Tyler and Smith County area received nearly six inches of rain from Tuesday to Wednesday afternoon.

According to KYTX CBS-19 weather reports, the Smith County area area saw 1.85 inches of rain Tuesday and 2.86 inches on Wednesday morning and afternoon.

The large amount of rain led to flooding and road closures Wednesday in Tyler and Smith County, including U.S. Highway 69 near Flint.

All roads in the city of Tyler and U.S. Highway 69 in the Flint area that were closed in the morning due to flooding reopened Wednesday afternoon, while some Smith County roads remained closed due to high water.

In Tyler, three areas were closed and reopened after high water receded, according to Tyler Police Department.

North and southbound lanes reopened on U.S. Highway 69 north of Farm-to-Market Road 346 after high water caused closures, Smith County Sheriff’s Office public information officer Larry Christian said.

In Smith County, high waters have receded from many county roads have reopened, but six remain closed due to water on the road. County Roads 463, 472, 129, 185, 1131 and 113 remain closed, according to a news release as of Wednesday afternoon.

The city of Tyler Water Utilities has closed public boat ramps on Lake Tyler and Lake Tyler East as a result of the high lake level.

Ramps have been temporarily closed until further notice because of boating hazards due to debris that washed into the lakes from the rain. The closure is also meant to reduce damage from shoreline erosion caused by boat wakes, according to the city of Tyler.

The lakes are now at an elevation of 376 feet and the levels are continuing to increase. Spillway elevation is at 375.5 feet, a news release stated.

The lakes are closed to boat traffic from lake residents. Tyler Water Utilities plans to reopen the ramps when the lake levels recede, according to the city.

The Gladewater Police Department reported that Lake Gladewater is now closed due to high water levels.

Rain is not expected to return this week, but there are chances this weekend and next week, according to CBS-19 reports.

Company owners pause concrete plant project in Flint area after hearing residents' concerns

After meeting Wednesday with Flint residents and local officials, the owners of Tycon Ready Mix have decided to pause their concrete batch plant project.

Tycon Ready Mix LLC applied to register a concrete batch plant near Flint, according to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. The application states the plant’s entrance was proposed to be 180 feet north from the intersection of Hunters Trail and Burkett Road (County Road 139) in Flint.

Many residents expressed concerns over the potential plant’s impact to their community.

In a statement from State Rep. Matt Schaefer, the company agreed to postpone the proposal as all parties consider options and evaluate solutions.

Leaders of the Flint neighborhoods surrounding the proposed plant met with owners of Tycon Ready Mix at a meeting hosted by Schaefer. State Sen. Bryan Hughes, Smith County Judge Nathaniel Moran and Smith County Precinct 1 Commissioner Jeff Warr were in attendance as well.

Schaefer said in the statement there was constructive dialogue about residents’ concerns, such as health, environmental impact, traffic, and quality of life. Tycon Ready Mix representatives said in the meeting the company plans to exceed environmental requirements and create a business that is good for the community and economic growth.

“Additionally, it was agreed that a public hearing by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality should be set within a reasonable amount of time so that all concerned parties can further communicate concerns,” Schaefer’s statement read.

Flint resident Debora Burkett started the Facebook group, Flint Concrete Plant Protesters, last month to have a unified group to hear issues over air quality, traffic and noise levels from others. The group has since grown to over 700 members.

In an interview with the Tyler Morning Telegraph, Arturo Lara, who lives in the Foxwood subdivision with his family, said his wife and two sons have asthma, and they’re especially concerned about the air. The Foxwood subdivision is roughly 180 feet from the proposed plant entrance.

“My kids already have asthma. We’re right next door to that. We’re like the second house that’s right here. I know they’re going to be making a lot of noise,” Lara told the Tyler Paper. “It’s already a peaceful neighborhood the way it is and that’s one of the reasons we moved here.”

The Flint neighbors also hosted a community meeting Feb. 1 at the Grace Fellowship Church in Flint to discuss their concerns and listen to Schaefer, who has been serving as a liaison between Tycon and the concerned citizens.

Dozens of residents also spoke in opposition of the plant during the Smith County Commissioner’s Court on Feb. 4.

After hearing from residents last week, the commissioner’s court voted to draft a letter to the TCEQ to voice the concerns of Flint residents.