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UT Tyler President Kirk A. Calhoun, current UT Tyler president, speaks during a press conference announcing an $80 million gift from the East Texas Medical Center Foundation at Willow Brook Country Club in Tyler on Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2020. The donation came shortly after last week’s announcement that the UT System would seek approval for a medical school in Tyler. The new medical center aims to significantly transform health education, healthcare and health outcomes in the East Texas region.

The Texas Legislature has given its approval for a new medical school in Tyler after lawmakers approved authorizing the Health Science Center at UT Tyler to put resources toward getting accreditation for a doctor of medicine program.

The authorization was included in Senate Bill 1, which deals with the state’s biennial budget. The next step is for Gov. Greg Abbott to sign the authorization, according to a University of Texas System statement on Friday.

Following approval, the medical school in Tyler will be the seventh in the UT System and the first in Northeast Texas.

“On behalf of UT Tyler and its health science center, I extend our deepest gratitude to the countless people who are working to bring the medical school to realization—our regents, elected leaders and generous donors,” UT Tyler President Kirk A. Calhoun said. “Our top commitment going forward will be to deliver an exceptional medical school that will serve Northeast Texas.”

The effort to establish a medical school in Tyler began in February last year when the UT System Board of Regents under the leadership of Chairman Kevin P. Eltife, approved a proposal. Eltife is a former mayor of Tyler and state senator.

According to the UT System, the new school has been championed by city, county and state leaders who see a need for health care professionals in East Texas. With a medical school in Tyler, future UT physicians can earn a comprehensive medical education without leaving East Texas and they can stay to live and work.

After the UT System approval, the East Texas Medical Center Foundation donated $80 million to help with medical school planning and operational costs. UT officials have worked with the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, the Texas Legislature and other licensing and accrediting agencies to make the medical school a reality.

Pending Abbott’s signature of Senate Bill 1, UT Tyler will work to complete the accreditation process and the hope is to have the medical school operational by June 2023.

“Texas has the proud distinction of being the nation’s best state for business. Access to excellent health care and higher education is an important factor for businesses and families who wish to make Northeast Texas their permanent home,” Eltife said. “Our new medical school will be a significant boost to our region’s future. The Texas Legislature’s support of this initiative to date, under the leadership of Governor Abbott, Lieutenant Governor (Dan) Patrick and Speaker (Dade) Phelan, is deeply appreciated.”

The legislation to authorize the medical received backing from several legislators, including Sen. Robert Nichols, of Jacksonville. Sen. Bryan Hughes, of Mineola, and the entire East Texas legislative delegation gave early endorsements for the school.

According to the UT System, the new medical school will expand access to health care for patients along with education and research opportunities for students. This school will also bring an economic boom to Tyler and the region.

“I am especially grateful to Chairman Eltife and President Calhoun, who well understood the need for this medical school, and their vision was enthusiastically embraced by the regents, the community and the Texas Legislature,” UT System Chancellor James B. Milliken said. “This recent action by our state leaders is key to health and prosperity in the region, and the UT System is fully committed to its great success.”

 
 

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I came to the Tyler Morning Telegraph in September 2019. I report on crime, courts, breaking news and various events in Tyler and East Texas.