UT regents commit, with conditions, to establishing medical school in Austin

By Ralph K.M. Haurwitz


The governing board of the University of Texas voted unanimously Thursday to establish a medical school in Austin if and this is a big but probably not insurmountable “if” a continuing stream of $35 million a year in community funds is raised to help support it.

The Board of Regents pledged $30 million a year from the Permanent University Fund, a multibillion-dollar higher education endowment.

That commitment, also contingent on community funding such as philanthropic dollars and taxes, consists of two components: $25 million in operating funds on a continuing basis and $5 million annually for eight years to pay for equipping laboratories so that faculty members can be recruited.

The regents also called on community leaders in South Texas to raise tens of millions of dollars a year for a medical school in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, and they promised to pursue additional funding from the state Legislature.

“This is a call to action,” UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa said of the two medical schools. “The time is now.”

Regents, university officials, elected officials and health care leaders have been discussing the prospects for a medical school in Austin for about eight years and for a Valley school for 15 years. But the question of a medical school in Austin actually dates to 1881, when Texans voted to locate the state’s first public university in the capital and its medical department in Galveston, then the state’s largest city.

“What you saw was a transformative, historic vote,” state Sen. Kirk Watson said after Thursday’s meeting of the UT System board.

Watson, a Democrat from Austin, is leading an informal organizing committee of civic, business, education and health care leaders pursuing a medical school and nine other health-related initiatives, including a teaching hospital to replace University Medical Center Brackenridge, a comprehensive cancer treatment center and upgrades at the Travis County medical examiner’s office all to be achieved within 10 years.

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UT regents commit, with conditions, to establishing medical school in Austin

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