Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center

By: Robert L. McCartor

Type: General Entry

Published: 1976

Updated: April 9, 2002

Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center was authorized by the Texas legislature in May 1969 under the name Texas Technological College School of Medicine. When Texas Technological College became a university that same year, the medical school became Texas Tech University School of Medicine. In 1979, in recognition of its expanding scope, the medical school was renamed Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center. Lubbock began actively seeking a medical division for Texas Tech in the early 1960s. Legislators placed a bill calling for the medical department before the regular session of the Fifty-ninth Legislature in 1965. Several Texas cities that wanted medical schools of their own, including Amarillo, Houston, and El Paso, opposed the legislation. The bill passed both the House and Senate but was vetoed by Governor John Connally. The 1965 action started a heated confrontation between state regions and among West Texas cities. West Texans claimed that any new medical school should be in their area because the rest of Texas was served by the University of Texas schools and Baylor. They also argued that medical resources in West Texas were not equal to those of the rest of the state. There was a shortage of hospital beds, twice the ratio of patients to doctors of the national average, and a high infant-mortality rate. The three largest West Texas cities-Lubbock, Amarillo, and El Paso-waged war over which would be the best site for a medical school. El Paso based its claim on having the largest source of patients for teaching purposes, Amarillo argued that it was building a new medical park that included a city hospital, and Lubbock declared that the benefits of locating a medical school on the campus of a major university warranted the medical school's establishment in that city. The Coordinating Board (see TEXAS HIGHER EDUCATION COORDINATING BOARD) examined the issue and, on the basis of the state's shortage of physicians, authorized the founding of two new medical schools, one in Houston under the authority of the University of Texas, and one in Lubbock under the administrative control of Texas Technological College. The Lubbock school was to utilize the medical facilities in other West Texas cities. Lubbock's legislators were able to get a bill through the Sixty-first Legislature in 1969, and Governor Preston Smith, who had supported Tech's getting a medical school since 1949, signed the bill into law. Because ad valorem taxes cannot be used for constructing educational facilities, however, the medical school could not be a part of Texas Tech University; it had to be a separate state institution. Both institutions, however, had the same persons sitting on their boards of regents, and the same individual was president of both schools. The difference between the legal status and the common conception of the medical school's dependency caused problems that still plague both TTU and TTUSM.

Proposed innovations in curriculum and instruction at the new school included shortening the period of time required to get the M.D. degree, using electronic teaching aids, introducing the students to clinical settings early in their training, using existing medical facilities instead of one large teaching hospital, encouraging students to go into family practice, and extending programs to outlying areas. Virtually all innovations were incorporated into the school's original program but were modified in 1975 to follow more established principles. The school continues to encourage family practice, to urge its residents to remain in West Texas, and to strive to develop better rural health care. The School of Medicine opened for classes with thirty-six freshmen and twenty-five junior transfer students in August 1972 and graduated its first class in May 1974. In the 1980s the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center opened schools of nursing and allied health, which were both approved for funding by the Texas legislature in 1981; the new schools admitted the first students into their bachelor's degree programs in 1981 (nursing) and 1983 (allied health). All five schools in the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center are dedicated to the mission of providing medical and health education, research, and services to West Texas, and particularly to improving rural health care. TTUHSC is a multicampus institution composed of four regional academic health centers, located in El Paso, Amarillo, Odessa, and Lubbock. The administrative center is in Lubbock. In the 1980s the center's clinics at its four regional health centers recorded a total annual average of 350,000 patient visits.

In 1993 the School of Medicine offered M.D., M.S., and Ph.D. degrees and employed a full-time faculty of 430 and a clinical faculty of 847. In the fall of that year there were a combined 1,238 students enrolled in the schools of nursing, medicine, allied health, and biomedical sciences. By the fall of 2000 combined enrollment, including the school of pharmacy (established in 1996), had reached a record 1,719, with a full-time faculty of 564.

Slowed in part by probationary status (imposed in 1975 and removed in 1977), the School of Medicine did not increase its student enrollment as rapidly as was planned. Nonetheless, from sixty-one students in 1972, enrollment has grown steadily. The Texas Tech University School of Medicine is accredited by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education, which represents both the Association of American Medical Colleges and the American Medical Association. In 1998 the School of Medicine began a combined M.D.-M.B.A. program, one of only two such programs in the country, with the Texas Tech College of Business Administration. In the fall of 2000 the school had 422 full-time faculty members and programs in Amarillo, El Paso, Lubbock, and Odessa. By 1993 the Texas Tech University School of Nursing had twenty-nine faculty members and offered B.S., M.S. and Ph.D degrees in nursing, as well as a Continuing Nursing Education Program, begun in 1979 as part of the Health Sciences Center and incorporated into the nursing school in 1981. By the mid-1980s the School of Nursing had branches in Lubbock and in the Permian Basin (with campuses in Odessa and Midland), and students participated in activities at the Regional Academic Health Centers at Lubbock and Odessa. In 1993 the school's various courses of study were accredited by the Western Regional Accrediting Committee of the American Nurses' Association, the Nurse Examiners of the State of Texas, and the National League for Nursing. In the fall of 2000 the School of Nursing still offered programs in Lubbock and Odessa, and the full-time faculty numbered thirty-nine. In 1993 the twenty faculty members at the School of Allied Health taught courses leading to the completion of B.S. degrees in clinical laboratory science, occupational therapy, or physical therapy and certification in emergency medical services. At that time the program was still based at Lubbock, though plans were being made for expanding the program to other campuses. The school received accreditation from both the American Physical Therapy Association and the American Medical Association Committee on Allied Health Education and Accreditation. By the fall of 2000 there were programs in place in Amarillo, Lubbock, Midland, and Odessa, and the full-time faculty numbered fifty-one. The legislature authorized the establishment of the School of Pharmacy in 1993, with the first two years of study at the Lubbock campus and the final four years of study at the Amarillo campus. In the fall of 2000, the School of Pharmacy, with fifty-two full-time faculty, also offered programs in Dallas.

Though in the 1980s the school's research program was still relatively new, work under way included projects in reproductive biology and the neurology of aging; in addition, the center's emphasis on rural health issues was reflected in its various projects in medical communications technology. In fiscal year 2000, the four campuses of the School of Medicine provided more than 558,000 clinical care visits to more than 206,000 ambulatory patients and also served more than 45,000 inpatients in affiliated hospitals. The four campuses also provided almost 300,000 charity clinical care visits to more than 83,000 patients. Also in fiscal year 2000 the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center had total revenues of $374 million, of which almost $101 million came from state appropriations, and expenditures of about $357 million, including over $255 million in instruction, research, and public service. The Texas Tech Medical Foundation, a nonprofit corporation chartered in 1970, administers donations and grants on behalf of the TTUHSC, helping provide support for projects including research, student financial aid, and training facilities. John T. Montford was chancellor and David R. Smith president of the Health Sciences Center in 2001.

Southwest Collection, Texas Tech University (Health Sciences Center, Health Sciences Club Archives, Medical School). Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, Catalog: School of Allied Health, 1989–90. Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, Catalog: School of Medicine, 1989–91. Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, Catalog: School of Nursing, 1989–90.
  • Education
  • Medical Schools and Teaching Hospitals
  • Health and Medicine

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Robert L. McCartor, “Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 16, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/texas-tech-university-health-sciences-center.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

April 9, 2002

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