UT Health San Antonio medical student, John Michael Austin, has been appointed by Governor Abbott to serve as the Student Regent on the UT Board of Regents, the governing body for The University of Texas System. The Board of Regents is composed of nine members who are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate, as well as one student regent.
“It’s a huge honor. I’m really looking forward to learning about the UT System and advocating and representing my fellow students and doing as much as I can to try to improve the experience for students in the UT System,” Austin said.
Austin, a third-year medical student in the Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long School of Medicine, eagerly applied for the opportunity, feeling well-prepared for the role. Prior to entering medical school, Austin worked as a state legislative staffer, gaining experience on the inner workings of health policy at the state level.
“I found with that experience that opportunities abound for those who are willing to do the time and show up. You get out of it what you put into it,” Austin said, noting his work in making changes to drug pricing policy and improving access to affordable insulin during his time as a legislative staffer. “As a regent, I’ll have opportunities to learn about GME funding and job placement for undergrad students, and I’m hoping to represent students well on the policies important to us.”
Austin has also made big impacts with his involvement in the Long School of Medicine’s Texas Medical Association (TMA) chapter, serving as the group’s president in 2022. In addition, he served as the student member of the TMA’s council of legislation where he recently worked to pass legislation to allow school personnel and school nurses to administer Albuterol to students in respiratory distress, even without a prescription.
“I worked heavily with the Texas Legislature on that, and it was very exciting and rewarding work,” he said.
As the Student Regent, Austin will represent the 240,000 UT System students during the four scheduled Board of Regents meetings held throughout the year. Though not a voting member, he will be able to take part in discussions and advocate on behalf of students.
Austin credits the support of the Long School of Medicine for helping him dive deeper into his passion for policy.
“I’m blown away by how much the school takes care of us,” Austin said. “They go out of their way to give students the support that they need, and they’ve really set me up for success. I came into medical school with an interest in health policy and state-level policy making, and the Long School of Medicine has made that possible for me.”