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UT Tyler President Kirk Calhoun speaks during a February 2020 news conference announcing an $80 million gift from the East Texas Medical Center Foundation to help planning and operational costs of a new medical school.

TYLER — The Texas Legislature has given approval for the region’s first medical school after lawmakers OK’d authorizing the Health Science Center at UT Tyler to put resources toward gaining accreditation for a doctor of medicine program.

The authorization was included in Senate Bill 1, which deals with the state’s biennial budget. The next step is for Gov. Greg Abbott to sign it, according to a University of Texas System statement Friday.

Following approval, Tyler’s medical school will become the seventh in the UT System and the first in Northeast Texas.

“On behalf of UT Tyler and its health science center, I extend our deepest gratitude to the countless people who are working to bring the medical school to realization — our regents, elected leaders and generous donors,” UT Tyler President Kirk Calhoun said. “Our top commitment going forward will be to deliver an exceptional medical school that will serve Northeast Texas.”

The effort to establish a medical school in Tyler began in February 2020, when the UT System Board of Regents under the leadership of Chairman Kevin Eltife approved a proposal. Eltife is a former Tyler mayor and state senator.

According to the UT System, the new school has been championed by city, county and state leaders who see a need for health care professionals in East Texas. With a medical school in Tyler, future UT physicians can earn a comprehensive medical education without leaving East Texas, and they can also stay here to live and work.

After the UT System approval, the East Texas Medical Center Foundation donated $80 million to help with medical school planning and operational costs. UT officials have worked with the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, the Legislature and other licensing and accrediting agencies to make the medical school a reality.

Pending Abbott’s signature of SB 1, UT Tyler will work to complete the accreditation process, and the goal is to have the medical school operational by June 2023.

“Texas has the proud distinction of being the nation’s best state for business. Access to excellent health care and higher education is an important factor for businesses and families who wish to make Northeast Texas their permanent home,” Eltife said. “Our new medical school will be a significant boost to our region’s future.”

According to the UT System, the new medical school will expand access to health care for patients along with education and research opportunities for students. This school also will be an economic boon to Tyler and the region.

“I am especially grateful to Chairman Eltife and President Calhoun, who well understood the need for this medical school, and their vision was enthusiastically embraced by the regents, the community and the Texas Legislature,” UT System Chancellor James B. Milliken said. “This recent action by our state leaders is key to health and prosperity in the region, and the UT System is fully committed to its great success.”

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