The University of Houston College of Medicine took a significant step forward when Gov. Greg Abbott signed House Bill 826, which formally recognizes the medical school in state statute.
In a strong show of bipartisan support, the legislation passed both chambers of the Texas Legislature last month and adds the College of Medicine to Chapter 111 of the Education Code when the law takes effect September 1. The statute authorizes public university systems in Texas to approve curricula and operational protocols for medical schools and makes them eligible for related state funding.
“We are grateful to the Governor and the legislature for recognizing the need for more primary care doctors in the state and for believing in the University of Houston’s ability to help fill this need,” said Renu Khator, University of Houston president. “With the UH Medical School, we will be able to better serve the state and particularly those who need access to healthcare the most.”
The UH College of Medicine is taking a different approach to medical education by training more primary care physicians to practice in underserved urban and rural communities. Critical to the medical school’s startup cost, the University is asking the state for $20 million, which was included in House Bill 1 when it passed the House last month. The University will ask for another $20 million over the next eight years.
“I am elated that our medical school will now be included in the state’s education code. Reaching this significant milestone is a culmination of hard work by many, along with the belief by state leaders in our mission. However, we’re just getting started. Ultimately, the people of Houston and Texas will reap the benefits,” said Dr. Stephen Spann, founding dean of the UH College of Medicine.
Last year, the University finalized an agreement with HCA Houston Healthcare to create nearly 400 residency slots over the next seven years. The total exceeds the state’s requirements of 10 percent more slots than medical students.
Following passage in the House last month, the bill’s joint authors applauded the University’s efforts to address the state’s shortage of primary care physicians. Texas ranks 47th out of 50 states in primary care physician-to-population ratio.
“The University of Houston College of Medicine will address the need for more primary care physicians in Texas, but just as important, they are creating new residency slots for medical students” said Rep. John Zerwas, M.D. (R-Richmond), chair of the state House appropriations committee. “Ultimately, we’ll be able to keep more doctors in Texas, which will improve the health of our state, especially in underserved communities.”
“I have supported UH’s medical school from the start because there are too many communities in Houston, and more broadly in Texas, with significant health disparities. Bottom line, we need more primary care doctors to impact the shortfall in medically underserved areas,” said Rep. Garnet Coleman (D-Houston). “The University of Houston’s vision, along with its established health-related programs and disciplines, is uniquely qualified to create a new type of medical school for those who need it most.”
The medical school hopes to admit its first class of students in Fall 2020, pending accreditation by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education. The University submitted its application to the LCME in March. The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board approved the University’s medical doctor degree last fall.