UT Board of Regents

The University of Texas System Board of Regents is shown meeting in Austin on April 2.

The University of Texas System is doubling down on its commitment to advancing research and education in Tyler.

The system announced Monday that it is moving forward with a plan to merge the academic and research portions of its Tyler-based institutions. The move comes just weeks after the announcement of a $95 million investment at the University of Texas at Tyler and the UT Health Science Center at Tyler for new health science facilities.

A news release from the Board of Regents said the arrangement will permanently marshal forces of both Tyler institutions under one administrative structure to best serve the needs of the state. That means the entirety of the UT Health Science Center at Tyler and the University of Texas at Tyler would fall under a single administrative body.

“With two great UT institutions situated only miles apart in the same city, it just makes sense for both to come together as a unified institution, scale their missions, and significantly increase their combined capacity to respond to the educational and health needs of a dynamic and growing region of Texas,” Board Chairman Kevin P. Eltife said.

The regents will seek additional authorizations from the Texas Higher Educating Coordinating Board and appropriate accrediting and licensing agencies to finalize a new structure that will move the UT Health Science Center at Tyler into UT Tyler as an administrative unit of the university.

Eltife said he will begin putting together an advisory committee composed of university and community members, who will work with UT System Chancellor James B. Milliken and the Board of Regents on an implementation plan, timeline for essential approvals and ensure a strategic and thoughtful realignment transition.

“This new alignment builds upon many strong partnerships that already exist between UT Health Science Center at Tyler and UT Tyler,” said Kirk A. Calhoun, M.D., president of UT Health Science Center at Tyler and chairman of the board of UT Health East Texas Health System.

“I’m delighted with the regents’ vision of one seamless environment that will benefit all of our students and faculty, giving them the best possible opportunities to learn, teach, conduct research and deliver health care in a single, fully integrated academic and medical setting.”

Dr. Michael Tidwell, president of UT Tyler, echoed the sentiments of Eltife and Calhoun.

“The positive outcomes of this move will be immeasurable,” Tidwell said. “A single, unified institution helps provide a clear path for service to East Texas. Our students will benefit from more programmatic and research opportunities, employers will benefit from highly educated graduates, and the community benefits from combining the intellectual capital of two great UT institutions into a single UT brand.”

As a former Tyler mayor and state senator, Eltife has been instrumental in the East Texas community and has worked with business leaders seeking recommendations on how UT might explore new ways to meet workforce needs, contribute at a higher level to the region’s economic vitality, and play a leadership role in providing health care professionals and education for the health care community.

Last year Eltife and Calhoun participated in negotiations with Ardent Health Services and the East Texas Medical Center Regional Healthcare System to create UT Health East Texas Health System. The system is a newly formed regional network of hospitals, clinics, rehabilitation centers, freestanding emergency centers and urgent care facilities throughout East Texas.

The UT System is now focusing on the need to educate and train more physicians and other health care professionals throughout the region.

To begin to address the challenge, the news release said UT Health Science Center at Tyler will add 200 new graduate medical slots in 2020 in critical specialties including internal medicine, surgery, obstetrics and gynecology, pediatrics and psychiatry.

The news release also said that the region currently lacks a medical school, which could serve as a catalyst to add additional specialties and draw medical students, residents and physicians to teach, train and live in the area.

The previously announced $95 million investment in facilities in Tyler for UT Tyler and UT Health Science Center 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 and 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.

“We will continue to look to the future to see how UT can provide more health care professionals for great hospitals and hospital systems in the region including UT Health East Texas, Christus Trinity Mother Frances, Baylor Scott and White Texas Spine and Joint, and others,” Eltife said.

Cory is a multimedia journalist and member of the Education Writers Association, Criminal Justice Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. He has appeared on Crime Watch Daily and Grave Mysteries on Investigation Discovery.

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