On Election Day, the voters of Austin’s Central Health District passed Proposition 1, which will raise funds for a new medical school and an accompanying teaching hospital at the University of Texas at Austin. 

“This is a historic night for Austinites, the UT community and world-changing medical research,” said UT President Bill Powers in a statement on Nov. 6. “I’m thrilled and grateful that Central Health residents voted to invest in health care and to help us move ahead with a UT Austin medical school.” 

The new medical school is reported by the Austin American-Statesman to cost an estimated $4.1 billion over 12 years. The Seton Healthcare Family, which operates the University Medical Center at Brackenridge, will contribute $250 million to the construction of the medical school and the accompanying teaching hospital. 

The Daily Texan reported that the UT System Board of Regents pledged $25 million per year with an additional $5 million per year for eight years. Proposition 1 will increase the property taxes of Central Health residents from 7.89 cents to 12.9 cents per $100 of property value to help cover costs of operations at the teaching hospital.

Lawsuits have been brought against the proposition and its opposition is demanding a recount on the grounds that the wording on the ballot violated the Voting Rights Act. Judge Lee Yeakel is presiding over the case and a ruling on the matter is expected on Thursday, Nov. 22.

The new medical school will be the 10th in Texas. 

“It really gives an advantage to pre-med students at UTSA,” Alvand Sehat, president of the UTSA Pre-Med Society said, “because it increases the number of applicants who can get into med school in Texas.” 

Sehat explained how, in Texas, it is mandated that 90 percent of a medical school’s student body must be legal Texas residents. Thus, pre-med students are mostly competing against other Texas applicants. Therefore, having another medical school in Texas will increase matriculation rates. Last year, UTSA matriculated 30 of its 72 pre-med graduates, its highest rate yet.

Texas has one of the lowest medical doctors per capita rates in the country and this school should help to increase that rate. 

Sehat explained, “By training Texas pre-med students to become doctors in Texas, it will increase the retention rate. The goal is to keep physicians in Texas.” 

These teaching hospitals are where doctors go for their residency. Sehat explained that building new schools without new teaching hospitals simply makes residencies more competitive. If more doctors are graduating but are not accepted into residencies, then they cannot practice and it will not increase the number of physicians in the state. Having more teaching hospitals in Texas means that fewer doctors will  fulfill their residency requirement out of state, as doctors tend to practice where they complete their residency.

There are also advantages for non-pre-med students at UTSA. “A new medical school basically means new jobs,” Sehat said. Medical schools are also medical research institutions. “Graduate students here at UTSA in the college of science or engineering or wherever…can go and work at the research labs where they research things like new medical technologies and pharmaceuticals,” Sehat said.

The UT Austin medical school is set to open in 2015 with a charter class of 50 medical students.

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