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Houston Matters

Does Texas Really Need More Medical Schools?

The dean of Sam Houston State University’s proposed College of Osteopathic Medicine tells Houston Matters the school wants to improve primary care in East Texas.

An artist’s rendering of the proposed College of Osteopathic Medicine at Sam Houston State University, which will be located in Conroe.


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Several proposed new medical schools around Texas are moving closer to fruition as of late. Last week, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board signed off on opening programs at the University of Houston and the University of North Texas. And Sam Houston State University in Huntsville is also in the approval and accreditation process for its proposed College of Osteopathic Medicine. The school has set a groundbreaking date for its new campus in Conroe for November 16.

But, with numerous institutions already in existence across the state – including in the Texas Medical Center in Houston – do we really need more medical schools?

Those behind those institutions say yes – mainly in order to meet specific medical needs of underserved populations in the state. For Sam Houston State, the goal is to improve access to primary care in rural East Texas.

In the audio above, Houston Matters producer Michael Hagerty talks with Dr. Charles Henley, the new dean of Sam Houston's proposed college, to find out how it will meet that need.

Henley says the university’s hope is that, once the medical school is established and it works with clinical partners, it “will be able to change the workforce eventually, after we put students out” and “(the students) go into good residencies in the area.”

“We hope to be able to recruit from those areas,” Henley explains referring to East Texas, “so students will be comfortable going back to where they came from to practice.” “It’s gonna take a while, but we will eventually sort of repopulate that area with the kinds of people that we would hope to see in terms of providing more access to primary care, to some specialty care and mental health,” he adds.

In that regard, Henley also underlined that “statistics show that, if you graduate from a medical school in Texas and you stay in Texas for residency, then we have a better chance of retaining you for practice.”

Henley also talked about the fact the medical school will form its students in osteopathic medicine.

One of the characteristics of osteopathic medicine is factoring in homeostasis, which is the body’s ability to heal itself.

Henley underscores the versatility of forming medical students in osteopathic medicine because “you can graduate from an osteopathic medical school and you can go and do anything you want.” “We have neurosurgeons, dermatologists, psychiatrists, everything.”

Additionally, osteopathic medicine tends to graduate more students into primary care and rural practice, and that is one of the main reasons the university is going in that direction.