UT Health San Antonio, UTSA collaborate to reduce health disparities, train public health professionals
Bexar County Commissioners Court gave preliminary approval June 7 to award $10 million to UT Health San Antonio and The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) for development of The University of Texas School of Public Health San Antonio.
The allocation is from Bexar County’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding and will support startup programmatic, operational and educational costs including renovation of existing spaces at UT Health San Antonio and UTSA. A student census of almost 400 is planned within the first five years, with a Master of Public Health degree offered beginning in 2024 and a Doctor of Public Health degree program to be developed.
The University of Texas System Board of Regents recognized that the region’s persistent disparities in key health outcomes require a public health approach. In November 2021, the Regents voted to authorize UT Health San Antonio and UTSA to develop a new public health school.
“A free-standing, independent school of public health in South Texas has been a shared vision of the leadership of UT Health San Antonio and UTSA for some time,” UT Health San Antonio President William L. Henrich, MD, MACP, said. “Formation of The University of Texas School of Public Health San Antonio results from close collaboration between two UT System universities united around a shared mission to establish a research-intensive, community-centric school to improve health outcomes, reduce morbidity and mortality, and educate the next generation of public health professionals for our city and region.”
“We are immensely grateful to our Bexar County Commissioners for their support and significant $10 million investment in this collaborative effort to meet the demand for public health education in San Antonio as well as the growing public health needs of South Texas’ diverse population,” UTSA President Taylor Eighmy, PhD, said. “Both institutions are deeply committed to building upon our areas of expertise to ensure the new School of Public Health becomes a regional leader in preparing the next generation of public health leaders while creating healthier communities.”
San Antonio is a majority-minority city that, with its large and growing Hispanic population, reflects the demographic future of the nation. Many areas of the city and South Texas region are identified as Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs) by the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration. San Antonio is the largest city in the U.S. without a school of public health.
Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic produced a strong demand and need for public health education surrounding vaccination, masking, social distancing and handwashing. The new school will enable local residents to train for public health careers to meet ever-emerging health challenges.
“Bexar County is primed for a school of public health, and we are pleased that ARPA support will help create it,” Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said. “The pandemic that we have weathered demonstrated the need for public health solutions for our population more clearly than ever before.”
Total startup costs for the School of Public Health are budgeted at approximately $40 million, including existing building renovations, programmatic development and recruitment of a nationally renowned dean.
The public is invited to tour The University of Texas School of Public Health San Antonio website.