Critical vote could impact rural healthcare in East Texas


The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) will soon make a decision that could impact millions of Texans living in rural and underserved communities. On July 26, the board will decide whether to approve Sam Houston State University’s proposed college of osteopathic medicine (applicant status – seeking accreditation).
SHSU’s plan requires no state funding and is designed to help meet the extraordinary and urgent healthcare needs of East Texas.
The state earned an alarming “F” in the recent U.S. Rural Health Report Card published by Texas Tech University, particularly in terms of rural access to healthcare. Eighty percent of Texas counties are classified as medically underserved, leading to the state’s dismal 47th overall ranking for number of primary care physicians. In the East Texas region there is only one primary care physician for every 4,510 citizens compared to the state’s already abysmal average of 1,670 to one.
If approved, the self-funded proposed college will collaborate with hospitals in rural East Texas counties to establish federally funded residency-training programs that will benefit the people living in the region.
“Those graduating from an osteopathic college are more likely to practice in rural areas,” said dean of SHSU’s proposed college of osteopathic medicine Charles Henley. “If approved, SHSU’s recruitment will focus on students from rural and underserved areas. This will help build a pipeline of qualified medical students who are more likely to return to their communities and serve those regions of Texas where the care is needed most.”
After four years of researching, analyzing and planning SHSU has developed an innovative solution that specifically addresses rural and underserved healthcare needs. A key to this strategy is established partnerships with community hospitals and health centers.
“We can’t take credit for this plan. It was the people of East Texas who sounded the alarm and communicated to us their critical needs for primary care,” said Dana Hoyt, President of SHSU. “Our plan has always been based on a collaborative approach. I appreciate the tremendous outpouring of support we have received from the community, healthcare providers and legislative leaders who recognize that we need a new solution. Together, we can make this change.”
SHSU is asking for the community’s input and support once again and believes that East Texas residents should have a voice in decisions that can have long-term impacts on their quality of life and future generations. Hoyt suggests those citizens who want to be involved and have their voices heard should contact the governor’s office, state representatives and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board before the July 26 vote.

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