University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth

By: Craig Elam and Ray Stokes

Type: General Entry

Updated: August 12, 2020

In 1961 the Texas Association of Osteopathic Physicians and Surgeons (now the Texas Osteopathic Medical Association) conceived the idea of establishing an osteopathic medical school in Texas. After much study and discussion, Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine received a charter from the state on June 15, 1966, as a private nonprofit institution. The college was to be located in Fort Worth due to the large concentration of osteopathic physicians there, including the founding officers: George J. Luibel, chairman; D. D. Beyer, vice chairman; and Carl E. Everett, secretary-treasurer. By 1969 the Texas osteopathic profession had raised sufficient funds to open an administrative office and hire Henry B. Hardt, chairman of the chemistry department at Texas Christian University, as associate dean and chief administrative officer. During 1970 Hardt appointed the initial ten full-time faculty members, recruited twenty more as volunteers, obtained temporary classroom and laboratory space at Fort Worth Osteopathic Hospital (now the Osteopathic Medical Center of Texas), and received the required pre-accreditation from the American Osteopathic Association. The Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine was only the second osteopathic medical school to open since 1916. The first class of twenty students entered in October 1970. Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine began to receive partial state support when Senate Bill 160, which provided operating funds, was signed into law in May 1971. In February 1972 TCOM entered into an affiliation agreement with North Texas State University in Denton (now the University of North Texas) to provide the medical students with basic science instruction on the NTSU campus. With the passage of Senate Bill 216 in May 1975, TCOM became a separate state-supported medical school under the direction of the NTSU Board of Regents through the president of the university.

The college rapidly outgrew its scattered temporary facilities and began development of a central sixteen-acre $71 million campus in Fort Worth. The first permanent facility on the TCOM campus-Medical Education Building 1-opened in August 1978, housing the clinical science departments, classrooms, outpatient clinics, administrative offices, and a library. In order to accommodate all academic activities on one campus, a second building was needed to house the basic science departments, which were rapidly outgrowing their temporary quarters. From the nucleus provided by North Texas State University, TCOM committed itself to developing its research faculty and programs. Despite osteopathic medicine's traditional emphasis on teaching and clinical service, TCOM administrators believed that a strong biomedical research program was essential to the education of well-trained primary care physicians. This philosophy was implemented with the opening of Medical Education Building 2 in 1982. Medical Education Building 3, housing the Gibson D. Lewis Health Science Library, biomedical communications, and a computer center, opened in December 1986. The first TCOM outpatient clinic opened in 1973 on Rosedale Avenue in Fort Worth. The Mobile Clinic Program also began that year, using a specially equipped van to bring medical services to eight Community Action Agency sites. As TCOM grew, additional clinics were established to serve Fort Worth's inner city residents, military retirees at Carswell Air Force Base, and the citizens of rural Justin and Godley, Texas. In conjunction with the rapid growth of the clinical science and research programs, TCOM became one of the first medical schools in the nation to commit itself to a curriculum based on the promotion of health. In February 1980 the college adopted a visionary statement of educational goals designed to address unmet health care needs through a shift in emphasis in osteopathic medical education from the treatment of established disease to the promotion of health and wellness. At the same time, TCOM recognized its obligation to continue to train students in traditional medical skills and knowledge.

Since its beginning TCOM has been served by five chief executive officers. Marion E. Coy was named president in 1973 and served until TCOM became a state institution in 1975. At that time, NTSU President C. C. Nolen became also, by law, president of TCOM and Ralph L. Willard was named dean. Nolen was succeeded by Frank E. Vandiver in 1979. After legislation allowed TCOM and NTSU to have separate presidents under a common chancellor, Willard was named president in May 1981 and served until June 1985. David M. Richards succeeded Willard in January 1986. The current UNT/TCOM chancellor, Alfred F. Hurley, has served since 1982. On August 30, 1993, the Texas legislature recognized two decades of progress when it renamed TCOM the University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth. Composed of the medical school, which retained the name Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine, and the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, the center at that time employed about 150 full-time faculty, 300 adjunct faculty and 800 staff, and had an enrollment of more than 400 medical and 70 graduate students. TCOM's clinical services had expanded to include six general and family practice clinics and eighteen specialty clinics, including the DNA/Identity Laboratory and the Hyperbaric Medicine and Wound Care and Gerontology Assessment and Planning clinics. Twelve affiliated Texas hospitals served as major clinical teaching sites, with the 265-bed Osteopathic Medical Center of Texas the main teaching hospital.

The graduate school formalized TCOM's 15-year history of cooperation with UNT in educating basic scientists. Created in part by the transfer of the UNT Department of Biomedical Sciences, where many TCOM faculty had dual appointments, the graduate school was authorized to offer both master's and doctoral degrees in biomedical sciences. External funding for research had grown during this period from $1 million to over $20 million. By 1994, TCOM had graduated 1,519 osteopathic physicians. True to the osteopathic tradition, almost three-fourths are in the primary career fields of family medicine, general internal medicine, and pediatrics. TCOM has consistently produced the highest proportion of family medicine physicians of all eight medical schools in Texas and is among the national leaders in preparing primary care physicians, sending more than 40 percent of recent graduates into postgraduate family medicine training. About 60 percent of TCOM graduates practice in Texas; of those, 31 percent are in communities of fewer than 25,000 people, and 14 percent are in towns of less than 5,000.

C. Ray Stokes and Judy Alter, Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine: The First Twenty Years (Denton: University of North Texas Press, 1990). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

  • Dallas/Fort Worth Region
  • Fort Worth
  • North Texas

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

Craig Elam and Ray Stokes, “University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed July 03, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

August 12, 2020

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