University of Texas System regents Thursday approved a $334.5 million plan for the first phase of developing a medical school at the southern edge of the Austin campus.
The action, which was expected, came as the Board of Regents wound up a two-day meeting in Austin. The regents also authorized their staff to negotiate what is expected to be a long-term lease of 4.8 acres of the area in question to Central Health, Travis County’s health care district, for a new teaching hospital.
The $250 million hospital, to be built and owned by the private, nonprofit Seton Healthcare Family, would replace University Medical Center Brackenridge, which is owned by Central Health and operated by Seton.
Phase 1 of the Dell Medical School includes an academic building, a research building, a medical office building and a parking garage. The plan also calls for realigning Red River Street at 15th Street to accommodate the various buildings.
Officials said the medical school would be the first to be located at an academic campus in Texas; the others are stand-alone entities. It would also be the first medical school to be established at a major U.S. research university in about 35 years, said Gene Powell, chairman of the regents.
“This is an extraordinary opportunity,” said Kenneth Shine, the UT System’s executive vice chancellor for health affairs, citing the prospects for collaboration between the academic and medical units of the Austin campus, the research-intensive nature of the campus and the plan for a community-based model of medical education that will give students exposure to patients in doctor’s offices and clinics as well as in the hospital.
Officials hope to enroll the first class of 50 medical students in fall 2016. The plan still needs approval from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and accrediting agencies.
Jesús Garza, president and CEO of Catholic-owned Seton, said he anticipates getting approval from its St. Louis-based parent, Ascension Health, in June. The goal is to complete construction in time to have the hospital up and running sometime in 2017, he said.
The regents also approved a medical area master plan that calls for the Erwin Center, which hosts sports, entertainment and civic events, to be demolished in six to 15 years to accommodate future expansion of the medical school.
In other action:
- The regents authorized $62 million in improvements at Royal-Memorial Stadium, including a volleyball practice area, athletics offices and renovations in the stadium’s Bellmont Hall for kinesiology, health education and fine arts.
- Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa, at the recommendation of Regent Brenda Pejovich, agreed to review compliance with the state’s open-records law at the UT System’s 15 academic and health campuses.