Texas Tech University

50 Years Ago, Texas Tech Provided a Model for Medical Education in Texas

George Watson

April 12, 2019

ttuhsc amarillo

Now, using Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center’s success as an example, Texas Tech hopes to duplicate that success with its School of Veterinary Medicine.

It's been said that history often repeats itself. When it comes to medicine in West Texas, history is happening again right before our very eyes.

When the prospect of Texas Tech University opening a medical school was first developed, it was met with plenty of resistance from the one school in the state that, at the time, had the perceived monopoly when it came to graduating doctors. The argument was that programs in Dallas and Houston were adequate enough to produce all the necessary medical professionals.

It wasn't until Preston Smith, a Lubbock businessman, was elected governor and then-Rep. Delwin Jones came into the legislature that enough support for the medical school was realized, and the Texas Tech School of Medicine was established in 1969.

Fast forward 50 years, and Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC) is a national leader in education, research and patient care, and produces more health care professionals on an annual basis than any other health related institution in the state.

Now, Texas Tech is trying to repeat that performance, only this time the university is trying to fill a growing and chronic need for more rural veterinarians in the state.

collaboration photo
Collaboration will be the key to success for the Texas Tech University School of Veterinary Medicine.

The Texas Tech University School of Veterinary Medicine in Amarillo will offer innovative, world-class curriculum to address the critical shortage of veterinarians, which is threatening small, regional and agricultural communities throughout Texas. It is a cost-efficient school that will attract students with a passion for rural veterinary care and graduate career-ready veterinarians to serve the state and its multi-billion-dollar agriculture industry.

"Through programs such as the Family Medicine Accelerated Track, TTUHSC is a national model for graduating practice-ready medical professionals not only in West Texas, but throughout the state and nation," said Lawrence Schovanec, Texas Tech president. "With the School of Veterinary Medicine, we are confident we will have the same impact on rural veterinary health that TTUHSC has made in human health. Texas Tech is leading the way with an innovative educational model that will fill a specific and long-neglected need."

Texas leads the nation in cattle, sheep, goat and mohair production and has the highest number of food and fiber animals in the U.S. The Texas Panhandle has the highest density of cattle in the country, but Texas ranks last among the 10 most populous states for the ratio of veterinarians to food and fiber animals.

We've answered the call before

When the School of Medicine was established, it was expected to produce important outcomes for the region's specific health care needs, while also adhering to strict standards. Far exceeding what was originally envisioned in the 1960s, the medical school's success grew into TTUHSC, a comprehensive, standalone university, now a premier hub of primary care and family medicine in the country.

At the time, there were roughly 1,350 people for every physician in the region. Today, there is approximately one physician for every 650 residents. TTUHSC's transformative model now provides health care professionals and services for the 108-county service area with nearly 3 million people.

"When you talk about health-related areas, including veterinary care and the like, medicine is not practiced within county lines, or even within district areas," said Texas Tech University System Chancellor and TTUHSC President Dr. Tedd. L. Mitchell. "Medicine is practiced in concentric circles. The things we do impact the people of eastern New Mexico, the Oklahoma Panhandle all the way up into Colorado and Kansas."

Additionally, the impact of the School of Medicine has been felt beyond the South Plains, leading to the creation of Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso in 2013, the first health-related institution in the nation located on the U.S.-Mexico border.

Unique Collaboration for One Health

The confluence of the Texas Panhandle cattle industry producing a quarter of the beef consumed in the U.S. and 88 percent of the beef in Texas, and the established facilities of the TTUHSC Amarillo campus, makes the area the perfect fit for the state's second veterinary school.

Veterinary students will receive hands-on education and experience from the start.

The health of humans is intrinsically connected to the health of animals. "One Health" is an integrative movement that fosters innovation through interdisciplinary research and collaboration. The School of Veterinary Medicine will be headquartered at TTUHSC's Amarillo campus with nationally ranked pharmacy and medical schools, the first of its kind to be co-located on an entirely healthcare-dedicated campus, presenting a unique opportunity to advance One Health concepts.

Now, Texas Tech and TTUHSC have the same vision for the new School of Veterinary Medicine. It's an approach that's worked before. It will work again. For the sake of the state and the country, history will repeat itself.

"As we look toward the needs of the Texas Panhandle, the South Plains and in fact, all of Texas, there are few things that don't involve agriculture in one way or another and what we do with all of our educational, research and patient care services," Mitchell said.

"Texas Tech has a long history of serving the people who support this region of the state.

"It's West Texans who take care of West Texas. And by doing so, it's West Texans who are taking care of the world. The veterinary school at Texas Tech is just another milestone in our mission and a necessary step in taking care of the people who take care of us."