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University of Texas System announces plans for Tyler medical school

TYLER — The University of Texas System has announced its intent to bring a medical school to Tyler.

UT System board of regents chairman Kevin Eltife made the announcement Thursday at Plaza Tower in downtown Tyler.

The board of regents is expected to give its final approval for the project at its Feb. 26 meeting.

Eltife, a former mayor of Tyler and former state senator, said that after board of regents approval, a legislative delegation will be set up to make the case in the 87th Legislature in 2021.

“A medical school in Tyler will give East Texans the chance to pursue their career aspirations without having to leave the region to do so,” Eltife said. “More importantly, it will increase the number of physicians and critical specialty areas to serve the region, which ultimately will enhance health outcomes and benefit all East Texans. And having more health care professionals in the area will have a positive impact on hospitals and hospital systems in the region, including UT Health East Texas, Christus Trinity Mother Frances and Baylor Scott & White Texas Spine & Joint.”

Eltife was joined by UT System Chancellor James B. Milliken, UT Health Science Center at Tyler President Dr. Kirk Calhoun, UT Tyler President Michael Tidwell, Tyler Economic Development Council President and CEO Tom Mullins, state Rep. Matt Schaefer, Tyler Mayor Martin Heines, Smith County Judge Nathaniel Moran and other elected officials.

“This will require legislative action, and this will be a team effort by everyone here on this platform,” Schaefer said, as he was joined at the podium by six other state lawmakers.

Mullins said the Perryman Group estimates a medical school in Tyler will have a cumulative economic impact over 10 years of $2.8 billion and create close to 30,000 direct, indirect and induced jobs. After 10 years, it would generate an economic impact of $1.9 billion annually.

The UT System already operates six medical schools across the state.

Recent initiatives

The announcement follows a yearslong investment in medical education and research in Tyler. In the past few months, the UT System also has made the decision to merge UT Tyler and the UT Health Science Center at Tyler under a single umbrella and approved $95 million for two new medical education facilities.

Out of that $95 million will come $35 million in funding for an Advanced Nursing & Health Sciences Complex to house UT Tyler’s rapidly growing program.

The other project approved by the system is $60 million in funding for a Graduate Medical Education and Resident Teaching facility for UTHSCT.

Milliken said health outcomes in East Texas lag the rest of the state and the nation.

“Today’s announcement represents an ambitious strategy to change that, going forward. With six medical schools — and our two Tyler institutions — the University of Texas System is uniquely positioned to develop a new school in Tyler, specifically focused on the needs of the region,” he said. “The strength of UT Health Science Center at Tyler and UT Tyler, particularly as they join forces, and our experience operating very successful medical schools across Texas, will provide a solid foundation for success.”

Eltife said the medical district is likely where the new UTHSCT facility will be built, and that it makes sense for a medical school to be created in that area. Construction of the Graduate Medical Education and Resident Teaching Facility is expected to begin within the next year.

Eltife said he estimates a medical school, if approved, would come to fruition within two or three years. He said the creation will be made easier with the foundation UT Tyler and UTHSCT already have in place.

The Perryman group estimates existing UT facilities in Tyler provide an annual economic impact of $1.7 billion, including $80.1 million in tax receipts and the creation of 21,529 jobs, according to information released by the UT System.

Calhoun said a medical school in Tyler will have numerous positive multiplier effects.

“There’s a growing awareness about both the challenges and the potential of East Texas, and it’s exciting to see momentum build to support and invest in our region,” he said.

Calhoun joked that he used to chase Eltife into the men’s room at the Capitol to advocate for funding, and all those years of laying the groundwork had paid off.

Tidwell said the university’s new Pre-Med Academy already has more than 80 students enrolled.

“We are profoundly grateful to the UT System for its investment in the future health care in East Texas,” he said.

Frontier Airlines to end flight services at Tyler airport

From staff reports

About seven months after starting service, Frontier Airlines says it will suspend operations at Tyler Pounds Regional Airport.

Frontier Airlines of Denver said it would end operations at the Tyler airport in April because of a lack of sufficient demand to support its service, according to a statement from the airline.

“We greatly appreciate the partnership and support we have received from the airport and community and will continue to evaluate the potential for future opportunities,” Frontier said in the statement.

In July, Frontier started offering three flights a week from the Tyler airport to Denver International Airport. The airline came to Tyler after the 2018 reconstruction and rehabilitation of a runway.

Tyler’s loss likely won’t be Gregg County’s gain.

Roy Miller, executive director of the East Texas Regional Airport, said he doesn’t believe Frontier Airlines will consider trying its Denver flight service at his airport outside Longview.

Airline executives gather “a lot of research” before making flight decisions, he said, and Frontier didn’t consider East Texas Regional initially, likely because of nearby competition from airports in Dallas and Shreveport.

“I really don’t think there is, in that Shreveport has a direct flight with United (Airlines) to Denver,” Miller said. “I questioned originally if that Frontier flight was going to be successful in Tyler.”

American Airlines offers service from East Texas Regional Airport and Tyler Pounds Regional Airport to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, where passengers can connect to other flights.

Officials: Texas, Nebraska arrivals shouldn't be ill

OMAHA, Neb. — Hundreds of Americans being evacuated from China over a viral outbreak will be quarantined in Texas and Nebraska, officials said Thursday, stressing that it was unlikely that anyone will arrive there with signs of illness.

Officials said about 70 Americans will be flown into Omaha and quarantined at a nearby Nebraska National Guard training base. In Texas, Lackland Air For Base in San Antonio was preparing to quarantine as many as 250 people who could arrive as soon as today, said Dr. Jennifer McQuiston, deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control’s division of high consequence pathogens and pathology.

All passengers will be arriving from Wuhan, China, the center of the new coronavirus outbreak. McQuiston said the plane bound for Texas will stop first at Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, California — where other evacuees from China are already under quarantine — and that anyone showing symptoms would be taken off the plane and remain there.

“It’s actually very unlikely that on the flight that lands here, there will be somebody with active signs of illness,” she said.

University of Nebraska Medical Center Chancellor Jeffrey Gold also said that all the evacuees should be healthy when they arrive at Eppley Airfield, which could happen as soon as Thursday.

Evacuees will be quarantined for 14 days and monitored closely for any signs of illness. Anyone who shows signs of illness would be brought to a hospital for treatment and isolation.

Nebraska National Guard officials have been preparing to house evacuees in three buildings with 85 hotel-style rooms at the camp. Guard officials have said the evacuees won’t interact with guardsmen or employees there.

The new virus is in the coronavirus family that includes Middle East respiratory syndrome, or MERS, and severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS.

It causes fever, cough, shortness of breath and, in severe cases, pneumonia. It has sickened more than 20,000 people and killed nearly 500, virtually all in China.