The University of Houston College of Medicine has received a $5 million gift from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas (BCBSTX). The gift will provide $3.5 million for scholarships to at least 35 medical students and $1.5 million to create a pipeline program to attract and retain students from diverse backgrounds who have an interest in practicing primary care medicine.
The new medical school aims for at least half of each graduating class to practice primary care to address the significant statewide shortage of physicians in underserved urban and rural communities where health disparities take their heaviest toll. Houston has grown by more than four million people since its most recent medical school was founded in 1972, and Texas ranks 47th in primary care physician-to-population ratio.
"The gift to the UH College of Medicine holds true to our focus on lowering health care costs through long-term, sustainable community investments. This investment is about the future of health care. Primary care physicians will be the cornerstones of that future," said Dr. Dan McCoy, president of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas. "Developing and training primary care physicians is a crucial step towards building a system of care that is patient-centric and less complicated, while also improving quality and lowering cost. We believe this investment on the front end will yield great results for health care on the back end."
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas Scholarships - $3.5 million
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas (or BCBSTX) Scholarships will provide $100,000 four-year scholarships to at least 35 medical students. The medical school will use a holistic admissions process that not only factors in Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) scores and grade point average, but also carefully considers predictors for those most likely to pursue primary care. Those predictors include:
- individuals who have family members in service-oriented careers
- those pursuing medicine as a second career
- candidates who are African American, Hispanic or from rural areas
- individuals with previous experience in primary care in another capacity
Blue Cross and Blue Shield College of Medicine Pipeline Program - $1.5 million
To meet its core mission, the UH College of Medicine will use pipeline programs to target ethnically and socioeconomically diverse K-12 and pre-medicine college students with an interest in primary care. Funding will be used to hire a director of outreach and diversity who will study successful pipeline programs and promote hiring a diverse faculty; and provide initial funding for a Ph.D. faculty member to develop an academic support system that includes peer mentoring/tutoring, test-taking and study skills development, and faculty mentorship training for student academic success.
“With a focus on improving health, we will educate physicians who will be able to provide a path to a productive and more enjoyable life for the residents of our city and state,” said Renu Khator, University of Houston president. “Recruiting and retaining the most diverse and academically competitive students, regardless of financial resources, is a top priority for our medical school. I’m extremely thankful to Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas for sharing in our vision.”
The College of Medicine will admit 30 students in its inaugural class, pending accreditation by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education, reaching a total of 120 students per class and a total of 480 students at full enrollment. Tuition and fee rates for the Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree at UH will begin at $23,755 per year. According to Dr. Stephen Spann, founding dean of the medical school, one effective way to increase the number of graduates who practice primary care is to provide scholarships to students with a stated desire to become a primary care physician.
“Student loan debt is a significant deterrent to pursuing primary care specialties. The result is more physicians in non-primary care specialties, and a marked decline in primary care doctors,” said Spann. “This is precisely why training primary care physicians is an urgent need. We’re grateful to Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas for enabling more students to pursue their medical education at the University of Houston.”
With the gift, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas is welcomed into the UH Vanguard Society, the university’s corporate donor recognition circle. The society recognizes corporate benefactors who have given a total of $5 million or more to the university.
The gift is part of the “Here, We Go” Campaign, the University of Houston’s first major systemwide fundraising campaign in more than 25 years. The University has raised more than $1 billion to address key priorities, including scholarships, faculty support and strengthening the university’s partnership with Houston, and momentum continues as UH moves beyond its original billion dollar goal.
“Through this generous gift, our students will be able to fully immerse themselves in their studies and learn how to deliver value-based, compassionate care,” said Eloise Brice, UH vice president for university advancement. “We thank Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas for providing this incredible opportunity.”