The recent chatter of new medical schools in Austin and South Texas is back in the news, as Proposition 1 is on this year’s ballot in Travis County. If approved, the proposition would increase property taxes in order to fund healthcare services that will later be provided by a new medical school in Austin. Both schools will be a part of the University of Texas system.
As university systems expand and new medical schools open up, we must ask what they intend to do about the lack of primary care physicians not only in the state, but all across the country. Programs are being put into place to encourage students to pursue primary care, but are not widespread among schools.
AAFP Executive Vice President, Dr. Douglas Henley, M.D., addressed the shortage when speaking to the AAFP Congress of Delegates in Philadelphia last week. Henley describes a new type of medical education – “one which is more clinically oriented; one where all students are first educated and trained as ‘comprehensivists’ before seeking specialty training as residents; and one where students are taught to be leaders of efficient teams of health care professionals focused on delivering patient centered care to meet the triple aim of better care, better health, and lower cost.”
Henley goes on to say that today’s curriculum in medical schools is “broken” and focuses too much on the one person who ends up in the hospital as opposed to the thousands that “interact with our health care system in more common and very different ways.”
University of Texas System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa says that the South Texas school will graduate its first class in 2018. Chronically underserved, the region would benefit from a medical school should the new school’s medical graduates stay in the area for residency or future practice.
In a recent letter to the editor of the Austin American Statesman, Ken Sherman, M.D., shares his concerns about the new Texas medical schools and whether or not they will address the primary care physician shortage. Sherman thinks that the new Austin medical school will be modeled after the current UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, which he says does not produce enough family physicians. He is against the proposed tax increase until the UT System proves that the new school is “wholly committed to primary care with the primary care residency slots to match the community need.”
The fate of the proposition will be decided once and for all this week as Election Day is finally here. For more information on voting in Texas visit www.votetexas.gov.
Travis County voters approved Proposition 1 Tuesday 54.7 percent to 45.3 percent. Democratic state Sen. Kirk Watson of Austin, a major proponent of the tax increase, delivered a speech on election night saying that he “always felt strongly the people of Travis County would listen, see the benefit” and would vote in support of the tax increase as part of an initiative to establish a new medical school in central Texas. University of Texas at Austin President Bill Powers also spoke on the vote, saying that now “the hard work of building a medical school begins.”