The University of Texas System has announced its intent to bring a medical school to Tyler.

UT System Board of Regents Chairman Kevin Eltife made the announcement at a press conference at Plaza Tower in downtown Tyler on Thursday.

The UT System Board of Regents is expected to give its final approval for the project at its Feb. 26 meeting.

Eltife, a former mayor of Tyler and state senator, said that after board of regents approval, a legislative delegation will be set up to make the case in the 87th Legislative Session in 2021.

“A medical school in Tyler will give East Texans the chance to pursue their career aspirations without having to leave the region to do so,” Eltife said. “More importantly, it will increase the number of physicians and critical specialty areas to serve the region, which ultimately will enhance health outcomes and benefit all East Texans. And having more health care professionals in the area will have a positive impact on hospitals and hospital systems in the region including UT Health East Texas, Christus Trinity Mother Frances, and Baylor Scott & White Texas Spine & Joint.”

Eltife was joined by UT System Chancellor James B. Milliken, UT Health Science Center at Tyler President Kirk Calhoun, UT Tyler President Michael Tidwell, Tyler Economic Development Council President and CEO Tom Mullins, State Rep. Matt Schaefer, Tyler Mayor Martin Heines, Smith County Judge Nathaniel Moran, State Rep. Jay Dean, State Rep. Chris Paddie and other elected officials.

“This will require legislative action, and this will be a team effort by everyone here on this platform,” Schaefer said, as he was joined at the podium by six other state lawmakers.

Mullins said the Perryman Group estimates a medical school in Tyler will have a cumulative economic impact over 10 years of $2.8 billion and create close to 30,000 direct, indirect and induced jobs. After 10 years, it would generate an economic impact of $1.9 billion annually.

Recent Initiatives

The announcement follows a years-long investment in medical education and research in Tyler. In the past few months, the UT System also has made the decision to merge UT Tyler and the UT Health Science Center at Tyler under a single umbrella and approved $95 million for two new medical education facilities.

Out of that $95 million will come $35 million in funding for an Advanced Nursing & 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.

“Health outcomes in East Texas lag the rest of the state and the nation, and today’s announcement represents an ambitious strategy to change that going forward. With six medical schools — and our two Tyler institutions — the University of Texas System is uniquely positioned to develop a new school in Tyler, specifically focused on the needs of the region,” Chancellor Milliken said. “The strength of UT Health Science Center at Tyler and UT Tyler, particularly as they join forces, and our experience operating very successful medical schools across Texas, will provide a solid foundation for success.”

Eltife said the medical district is likely where the new UTHSCT facility will be built, and it makes sense for a medical school to be created in that area as well. Construction of the Graduate Medical Education and Resident Teaching Facility is expected to begin within the next year.

Eltife said he estimates a medical school, if approved, would come to fruition within two or three years. He said the creation will be made easier with the foundation UT Tyler and UTHSCT already have in place.

The UT System operates six medical schools across the state.

The Perryman group estimates existing UT facilities in Tyler provide an annual economic impact of $1.7 billion, including $80.1 million in tax receipts and the creation of 21,529 jobs, according to information released by the UT System.

“A medical school in Tyler will have a cascade of positive multiplier effects,” said Calhoun. “There’s a growing awareness about both the challenges and the potential of East Texas, and it’s exciting to see momentum build to support and invest in our region.”

Calhoun joked that he used to chase Eltife into the men’s room at the capitol to advocate for funding, and all those years of laying the groundwork had paid off.

“We are profoundly grateful to the UT System for its investment in the future healthcare in East Texas,” said Tidwell. “These programmatic and facilities investments will improve healthcare education, research, and clinical services for generations to come.”

Tidwell said the university’s new Pre-Med Academy already enrolls more than 80 students.