The University of Texas at Tyler will get its long awaited new College of Nursing facility and the Health Science Center will be getting a resident teaching school, thanks to help from the top.
The University of Texas System announced Thursday that the Board of Regents has approved a proposal to invest $95 million in facilities in Tyler for UT Tyler and UT Health Science Center. The money will come from the system’s Permanent University Fund, which is funded by oil and gas production on university-owned lands, according to a news release from the system.
Out of that $95 million will come $35 million in funding for an Advanced Nursing & Health Sciences Complex to house UT Tyler’s rapidly growing program.
The other project approved by the system is $60 million in funding for a Graduate Medical Education and Resident Teaching facility for UTHSCT.
“It’s the largest single appropriation from the Permanent University Fund awarded to Tyler at one time,” Board Chairman Kevin P. Eltife said. “I am grateful to and proud of the entire Board of Regents for this critically important commitment to strengthening East Texas and by extension, all of Texas.”
UT Tyler previously applied for funding for the nursing building during the state’s 86th legislative session, but money for UT System facilities was not approved.
UT Tyler’s College of Nursing enrolls 2,000 students in 15 programs. The College of Nursing also recently implemented a year-round trimester track to help future nurses navigate the program more quickly.
UT Tyler President Michael Tidwell had put the College of Nursing facility near the top of his list of goals in the 20-year campus master plan put forth last spring.
“An upgraded facility is essential as UT Tyler works to increase capacity to meet the demand for highly qualified nurses in East Texas and around the country,” Tidwell said. “We are grateful to the regents for providing a resource that will help future students in our school of nursing.”
The university will now begin the planning phase in earnest, and hopes to soon have details and updated renderings representing what the facility will look like. Earlier this year they showed conceptual drawings of what the facility could look like if approved, but those are not set in stone.
Eltife said the projects speak to the commitment the UT System has to advancing the medical community in East Texas. He pointed to the work being done at the Health Science Center as well as with UT Health, a partnership with Ardent that took over the former East Texas Medical Center system.
“It’s been a long time coming and there has been a lot of groundwork laid,” Eltife said. “Our medical community has been the backbone of the economy in Tyler. This is a huge commitment from the system.”
UT Health Science Center President Dr. Kirk Calhoun said the work the center is doing is a direct result of showing the need for improved health outcomes in East Texas with a 2016 survey.
Calhoun estimates the new resident learning complex will allow the Health Science Center to train more doctors than ever before, boosting the program’s capabilities from 60 or so residents annually to between 200 and 250.
He expects a new survey to be done, likely in 2020, and believes initiatives put in place over the past four years will already be showing results.
UT Health CEO Moody Chisholm said the decision to invest in Tyler will help ensure long-term health outcomes will improve by growing doctors in the community.
“A new graduate medical education and resident teaching facility, similar to our residency programs, brings new clinical talent and economic opportunity to our region and it will help us to increase the number of physicians who train in our hospitals,” Chisholm said. “Because physicians often put down roots where they train, we believe it will help East Texas attract and retain high-quality providers to serve the growing health care needs of our community.”
Both campuses are in a period of growth. Separately from the system funding, UT Tyler was recently approved by the Tyler Planning and Zoning Commission for a zone change to allow a mixed-use development at University Boulevard and Old Omen Road for a retail and housing facility, with businesses on the first floor and student housing above. This facility would likely be funded by a public-private partnership. Also in the works is a face-lift for the University Center.
The Health Science center also recently opened its new School of Community and Rural Health facility.