UT Tyler President arrives to campus in style in UT Health helicopter to welcome new students

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TYLER, Texas (KETK) – Dr. Kirk A. Calhoun, the president of The University of Texas at Tyler flew to campus in style to promote students coming back to in-person classes for the upcoming school year.

President Calhoun and the UT Health Air1 flight crew flew from the Tyler Medical Center to the UT Tyler Patriot Plaza at 9 a.m. on Monday, June 21.

“We were there on the helipad and from the Tyler Medical Center to the UT Tyler Campus, four minutes, that’s pretty impressive,” President Calhoun said.

President Calhoun said that the ride in the helicopter was a way to celebrate students coming back to in-person classes in the fall.

“Many of our students are going through orientation, this week and next and it’s an exciting time on campus for me to interact with parents and interact with students as they are coming to visit and we are really look forward to having our students back in the fall resuming our normal classes,” President Calhoun said. “This is the start of us offering a whole host of experiences to make our students feel part of the UT Tyler family and part of that is exposing them to some of the leaders that exist in the Tyler community.”

In addition to the flight crew, several health care leaders were on campus meeting with students who will go into the health care fields.

The UT Health Air1 flight crew also presented their careers to nursing students and provided students with information on career options.

“Two-thirds of the UT budget is health care,” President Calhoun said. “The ambulance and the helicopter have allowed us to really be in a position to expand out educational research offerings and healthcare and particular start the new medical school here.”

In February of 2020, the University of Texas System announced they will launch a medical school in Tyler, which would be the first ever in East Texas.

Leaders from the UT system and the two UT institutions in Tyler – UT Health East Texas and the University of Texas at Tyler – announced the plan at Plaza Tower in downtown Tyler.

Under the new plan, with established medical residencies already in place, future physicians could complete their entire education and training in Tyler, ultimately providing more top health care professions who will live and serve in the region.

UT Tyler Board of Regents Chairman Kevin Eltife emphasized in a statement that the school will allow East Texans to ” pursue their career aspirations without having to leave the region to do so.”

In May of this year, the medical school got approval from the Texas legislature and will soon be on Governor Abbott’s desk for his signature.

Included in Senate Bill 1, the authorization for the facility is included in the state’s biennial budget.

This will be the seventh medical school that’s part of the University of Texas System, but the first located in Northeast Texas.

Led by Chairman and former Tyler mayor Kevin Eltife, the UT System Board of Regents approved a proposal in February 2020.

City, county, and state leaders have cited a need to address the shortage of health care professions in the growing region.

Shortly after the Board’s plan was announced, the East Texas Medical Center Foundation donated a record-setting $80 million to assist with associated planning and operational costs.

“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. Our new medical school will be a significant boost to our region’s future. The Texas Legislature’s support of this initiative to date, under the leadership of Governor Abbott, Lieutenant Governor Patrick and Speaker Phelan, is deeply appreciated.”

KEVIN ELTIFE, CHAIRMAN OF THE BOARD

Pending the Governor’s signature of Senate Bill 1, UT Tyler will work to complete the accreditation process with hopes of having the school fully operational by June 2023. 

The plan has received wide support from multiple politicians, including:

  • State Rep. Matt Schaefer
  • State Rep. Travis Clardy
  • State Rep. Dan Flynn
  • State Rep. Cole Hefner
  • State Rep. Jay Dean
  • State Rep. Chriss Paddie
  • State Rep. Gary VanDeaver
  • Tyler Mayor Martin Heines
  • Smith County Judge Nathaniel Moran
  • State Sen. Robert Nichols
  • State Sen. Bryan Hughes

The economic impact of a medical school is projected to be significant. The Perryman Group, a Texas economic research and analysis firm with ties to the region for more than 40 years, credited existing UT facilities in Tyler with providing an annual economic impact of $1.7 billion, including $80.1 million in tax receipts and the creation of 21,529 jobs.

“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 A. Calhoun said.

“Our top commitment going forward will be to deliver an exceptional medical school that will serve Northeast Texas.”

The new medical school will not only expand access to health care for patients and education and research opportunities for students but will also provide 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.”

UT Health East Texas provides care to thousands of patients each year through an extensive regional network that includes 10 hospitals, more than 50 clinics, the Olympic Plaza Tower, 13 regional rehabilitation facilities, two freestanding emergency centers, regional home health services covering 41 counties, an EMS fleet of more than 50 ambulances and four helicopters, and a comprehensive seven-trauma center care network, including the region’s only Level 1 trauma facility.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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