Tuesday, December 29, 2009

UT System begins planning for Valley medical school

UT System begins planning for Valley medical school
Regents also consider enhancing science, engineering offerings at Brownsville, Pan American campuses.

By Ralph K.M. Haurwitz
Updated: 8:55 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 27, 2009
Published: 8:49 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 27, 2009

Responding to demographic realities and some prodding from the state Legislature, officials of the University of Texas System have begun to sketch out the prospects for establishing a medical school in the Lower Rio Grande Valley.

UT System officials also will consider expanding programs in science, technology, engineering and math — the so-called STEM fields that state officials have deemed a high priority — at the Valley's two public universities, UT-Brownsville and UT-Pan American.

The Valley, which is heavily Hispanic and one of the fastest-growing parts of the state, has long been something of a stepchild when it comes to higher education. Neither the Brownsville campus nor the Pan American campus, which is in Edinburg, has a full complement of graduate-level programs.

The region has a shortage of physicians and high rates of poverty, and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board says the need for a medical school serving the Valley and other parts of South Texas is well-documented.

Earlier this year, state lawmakers approved a measure that authorizes — but stops short of requiring — the UT System Board of Regents to establish a medical school in Cameron County, whose major cities are Brownsville and Harlingen. A bill mandating creation of a law school did not advance.

At a retreat for UT regents and campus presidents this month near Austin, a rough consensus emerged on the educational, economic and political merits of expanding the UT System's offerings in South Texas. Regents Gene Powell and Robert Stillwell said the time might be ripe for the system to announce some sort of major initiative — or, as they put it, "plant the flag."

William Powers Jr., president of UT-Austin, urged officials...
 Read Full Story