The University of Texas Health Center at Tyler is situated on 614 acres eight miles northeast of Tyler at the junction of U.S. Highway 271 and State Highway 155, just south of Interstate 20. The site where the Health Center stands today was activated in 1943 as Camp Fannin, a World War II infantry training base, where more than 100,000 men a year were prepared for combat. During the height of the war, troop capacity was more than 18,000 soldiers with 1,074 hospital beds. It also served as a camp for prisoners of war. In 1946 Camp Fannin was closed. A year later the Fiftieth Texas Legislature authorized the purchase of the site from the federal government and chartered the East Texas Tuberculosis Sanatorium. The transaction involved surface rights to 614 acres and the existing wood barracks, which were used to house the 1,000-bed hospital. The sanatorium's primary mission was to treat tuberculosis patients in East Texas. Renovation of the sanatorium was begun in 1948, and a year later 122 patients arrived by train from a state tuberculosis facility in Kerrville. The first patients slept on cots until 1952, when the first hospital beds were issued. The sanatorium was renamed the East Texas Tuberculosis Hospital in 1951. In 1957 the hospital underwent major construction. Most of the army barracks were demolished and replaced with a new six-story, 320-bed hospital building. The Sixty-second Texas Legislature renamed the institution the East Texas Chest Hospital in 1971 and designated it a primary referral facility in Texas for treatment of pulmonary and heart disease. A $17.2 million building and expansion project for a new patient-care annex was begun in 1976 and completed in 1980. In 1980 a new six-story building was erected, and the old building was renovated for use as an administration center.
In 1977 the institution joined the University of Texas System, becoming the University of Texas Health Center at Tyler. The primary mission of this state referral hospital, which is governed by a Board of Regents, involves patient care, research, and education in the treatment of pulmonary and heart disease. As part of its commitment to higher education in the state of Texas, the University of Texas Health Center at Tyler has the only postgraduate program in East Texas, providing residency training for physicians in family medicine. The residency program is designed to ease the shortage of physicians in the rural areas of East Texas. Medical education at the center, in conjunction with area colleges and universities, offers clinical rotations for students in nursing, respiratory therapy, physical therapy, radiology technology, medical laboratory technology, and exercise physiology. Watson W. Wise Medical Research Library, the only medical research library in the region, was established in the 1970s and formally dedicated in 1984. As part of the mission of the University of Texas Health Center at Tyler, research in the fields of cell biology, environmental sciences, biochemistry, biomathematics, molecular biology, epidemiology, physiology, and microbiology is conducted in a $9 million biomedical research facility completed in 1987. The research program has attracted twenty-three research scientists and numerous research assistants, who bring in more than $3 million annually in federal awards from the National Institutes of Health and such private resources as the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association, and the Meadows Foundation.
With more than 1,300 state employees and a payroll of more than $27 million a year, the University of Texas Health Center at Tyler is the largest state employer in Smith County. Annual operating expenses total more than $40 million a year, with more than $16 million coming from state appropriations. In 1993 the staff of more than sixty full-time physicians recorded 3,200 hospital admissions, more than 90,000 outpatient visits, and performed more than 1,400 surgeries during 1993. The University of Texas Health Center at Tyler has made a commitment to serve the residents of East Texas. Programs have been developed to address prevalent health concerns, including the Texas Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, which assists companies and their employees in meeting goals for a safer and healthier workplace. Other programs include urgent care center services, and pediatric, rheumatology, and general medicine services. Insight, a quarterly publication targeted for patients and supporters of the health center, concentrates on health news and research. The University of Texas Health Center at Tyler currently has more than 166 patient beds and is accredited by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations.