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Powers: Prop 1 Passage Huge Step for UT, Texas Health Care

University of Texas officials on Wednesday lauded the passage of a tax increase to help fund a medical school in Austin and laid out aggressive plans to have medical students in place as soon as 2015.

University of Texas at Austin President, William Powers - Dec. 14, 2011

The first University of Texas medical school class in Austin could be in place as early as 2015 or 2016, Provost Steve Leslie said Wednesday morning.

Leslie, President Bill Powers and several college deans thanked Austin voters who approved Proposition 1 Tuesday night. The measure will raise property taxes to help fund a UT-Austin medical school. Those tax dollars will account for the last needed chunk of funding for the school.

“It’s a historic vote for Austin and Central Texas, and it’s certainly a historic moment for our University,” Powers said at a press conference.

Administrators from the colleges of natural science, engineering, pharmacy and nursing said they looked forward to collaborating with the medical school on research and the education of health professionals. 

“We have 1,100 exceptional students enrolled in our bachelors, masters and Ph.D. programs in nursing,” said nursing dean Alexa Stuifbergen. “Having a medical school at UT-Austin will really improve the clinical training opportunities we can provide our students.”

Other deans said they hope the medical school will be a place where student and faculty researchers can see their work put in action to improve patient health.

Next steps include pursuing accreditation for the program, hiring architects to design three medical school buildings and gaining approval from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, Powers and Leslie said. The UT System and the Board of Regents have already approved the plan.

A class in 2015 would be very ambitious and 2016 could be more likely, but Powers said the University plans to be aggressive in its goals to get the school started. 

“This is not off in the 2020s,” Powers said. 

At the press conference, Powers also acknowledged the death of beloved UT head football coach Darrell K Royal, who had Alzheimer’s and died early Wednesday morning. He was 88. Royal, the namesake of the Longhorn's football stadium, was head coach from 1956 to 1976. 

Powers said UT will grieve the loss of a mentor and friend and said UT will honor Royal’s memory in many ways. One way might be researching a cure for Alzheimer’s at the new medical school.

“It would be a great legacy to Coach if significant progress on Alzheimer's could take place on our campus,” Powers said.

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