The University of Houston System Board of Regents took a bold step Wednesday to address changing health care needs by unanimously approving the creation of a Health Science Center at UH.
With University of Houston (UH) programs in the health sciences as one of the primary drivers in its move to Tier One status, the board agreed that the university must further develop these resources to achieve the next level of success. UH offers a wealth of health science programs, including undergraduate and graduate academic programs to prepare students for health-related careers; research programs addressing health-related scientific, engineering and policy issues; and clinical programs directly involved in patient care.
Enrolling nearly 11,000 students in 97 health-related degree programs, UH conferred more than 1,800 degrees in these fields in 2011. This represents 23 percent of the health degrees awarded in the region, which is more than any other single institution in Texas.
The university’s research awards in the health sciences totaled $40.5 million – accounting for 38 percent of total UH research – in fiscal-year 2012. Additionally, last year’s royalty income from two UH drugs – one to treat epilepsy, the other to treat cancer – was $12 million, ranking UH 17th nationally among public universities for royalty income.
Another strong point taken into consideration by the board was UH’s clinical programs of optometry, pharmacy, clinical psychology, speech language pathology, and social work, which collectively treat more than 30,000 patients annually, generating more than $3 million in revenue.
“The creation of a Health Science Center at UH, which would include patient care, workforce training, research and community outreach, is critical to the economic and social well-being of the region and state,” said UH System Chancellor and UH President Renu Khator. “With numerous academic, research and clinical programs in the health sciences, our university plays a vital role in meeting these needs. Formal creation of this Health Science Center brings a new level of synergy and focus that will broaden the impact of our research and education programs, and provide a clear point of access for the community.”
A major impetus for UH to create this Health Science Center is to address regional and state health care needs. Health care is the largest, fastest-growing industry in Texas, employing 1.3 million workers in more than 200 careers, and the number of health care jobs in the state is expected to grow 44 percent during the course of the next five years. Organizing UH’s programs and resources through this proposed Health Science Center would enhance the university’s ability to help meet this demand.
What’s more, the training of professionals and delivery of services in health care is moving away from traditional medical school and doctor-patient models, largely due to unsustainable costs and increased patient demand. UH leaders agree a broader spectrum of professionals and expertise is needed to solve the myriad challenges of efficient, effective delivery of these services. With a diverse array of programs, UH is well positioned to be at the forefront of developing fresh, innovative models for educating health care professionals and providing patient care.
With opportunities for innovation more likely to grow out of collaborative programs and external funding becoming increasingly directed at interdisciplinary programs, another benefit of a formal Health Science Center at UH would be an increased ability to identify and support opportunities for collaboration both inside and outside the university. Ultimately, this would elevate UH’s visibility and reputation as a leader in the health sciences, enhancing awareness in the community, the Texas Medical Center and beyond.
Results would include increasing program enrollment and reputation, research partnerships and number of patients served. This enhanced visibility, standing and innovation in the health sciences would enable UH to recruit and retain high-quality faculty and students, as well as increase research productivity, all of which support the university’s Tier One goals.
As funding for higher education becomes increasingly scarce, universities must develop alternative means of securing resources. A Health Science Center would put UH in a position to increase tuition dollars through expanded enrollment in professional training programs, federal dollars through pioneering research programs and third-party payments for clinical services. Implementation of the Affordable Care Act, in particular, will provide an influx of new resources into the health care arena, and UH must be positioned to get the most out of this new law.
The university’s next steps are to seek approval of the Health Science Center from the Texas Legislature during its current session. If legislative approval is secured, the university will plan for an official launch of the center in fiscal-year 2014.
ABOUT THE UNIVERSITY OF HOUSTON SYSTEM
The University of Houston System is a comprehensive system of higher education institutions serving to further the intellectual capital and economic strength of the Gulf Coast region. The UH System includes the University of Houston, a nationally recognized Tier One public research university; the University of Houston-Downtown, a four-year undergraduate university expanding into graduate programs; the University of Houston-Victoria, a four-year university with undergraduate and master’s level degree programs; and the University of Houston- Clear Lake, an upper-division and master’s level institution. The system also includes three branch campuses, UH-Clear Lake Pearland, UH System - Northwest and UH Sugar Land, as well as a multi-institution teaching center, UH System Cinco Ranch. In addition, the System owns and operates Houston Public Media (HPM). HPM comprises KUHF-FM, Houston’s National Public Radio station; KUHA-FM, Houston’s 24-hour classical music station; and KUHT-TV, the nation’s first educational television station. To learn more about the UH System, visit http://www.uhsa.uh.edu/.