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UT Moves Forward on Med School

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Now that Proposition 1 has passed, the University of Texas is moving ahead with plans for its new medical school.

UT officials held a press conference this morning about a possible timeline for the complex. University President Bill Powers said with an aggressive approach, the first freshman class could start as soon as 2015. “This isn’t off in the 2020s,” Powers said. “We might take a little breather today and start tomorrow on all the processes. We’d like to break ground within a year.”

Powers said the school would bring at least 35 new faculty members. He hopes the first class would take at least 50 students.

Deans from the schools of natural sciences, engineering, pharmacy, and nursing stood with Powers at the press conference. The university seems to be taking an interdisciplinary approach to the new facility. Research done in one field may be implemented in another, all to help improve the quality of care in the teaching hospital. Every official who spoke expressed interest in working together.

First, the university has to get its plans okayed by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. The UT Board of Regents approved the measures before the proposition to help fund the teaching facility went to voters. Powers says the accreditation process could take three years.

The university must also design the physical facilities. The teaching hospital will only be one part of a complex. There are plans for two additional medical school buildings: one for medical research and another for classrooms and administrative offices. Powers says it’s important for the teaching hospital to be near the campus. Tentatively, he hopes it will be west of the University Medical Center Brackenridge.

The funding process for the hospital has been complicated. Some money will come from UT itself. Some will come from Seton Healthcare Family, and yet another portion of cash will come from the federal government. Proposition 1 was the last piece of the funding puzzle, but Powers said the hospital will still rely on philanthropy.

“Over time, for a new state of the art MRI machine,” Powers said, “or treatment machines, chairs to enhance the ability to recruit facility – the philanthropy effort will be on the excellence side, not on operations.”

Opposition to Proposition 1 still haunts its passage. The Travis County Taxpayers Union says it will file a lawsuit over what it calls biased language on the ballot. Powers says it isn’t stalling their plans.

“I’m a lawyer and president of a major university, and anytime there’s a lawsuit that might effect our position whether its against us or otherwise we take it seriously,” Powers said, “but we’ll let that proceed and see how it goes.”

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