The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio began in 1959 when the Fifty-sixth Texas Legislature authorized a medical school, originally named South Texas Medical School. After heated debate a site on the periphery of the city, rather than downtown, was chosen. Construction of the school, located on 100 acres donated by the San Antonio Medical Foundation in the South Texas Medical Center complex in San Antonio, was not begun until 1966; it was completed in July 1968. Faculty was recruited as early as 1965, and students enrolled by 1966, but they attended classes in Dallas and Galveston until 1969. The first class in San Antonio had 104 students, and in 1970 the thirty-three students of the first graduating class received doctor of medicine degrees. A dental school was authorized by the Sixty-first Texas Legislature in 1969. The University of Texas Dental School at San Antonio began, using temporary facilities in the medical school, in September 1970. The first class had sixteen dental students, and its first graduation was held in June 1974. Separate facilities for the dental school on the same 100 acres were completed in 1975.
The science faculty of the medical school developed graduate programs in anatomy, biochemistry, biophysics, microbiology, and pharmacology. In 1970 graduate programs for the master of arts and the doctor of philosophy degrees in these fields were approved by the Coordinating Board, Texas College and University System (now the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board). Four years later physiology was added to the list. In 1972 the University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at San Antonio was established and assumed responsibility for the administration of these programs. Combined programs within the medical and dental schools allow a medical or dental student to obtain an M.A. or a Ph.D. degree in addition to an M.D. or a D.D.S. degree. The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio was also established in 1972 by the University of Texas Board of Regents. It was to be composed of the dental school, the graduate school of biomedical sciences, the medical school, and a school of allied health sciences. In 1969 the University of Texas School of Nursing at San Antonio was authorized by the Texas legislature; it offered a baccalaureate degree in nursing in 1970 and a master's degree in nursing in 1972. In 1976 the board of regents reorganized the system school of nursing, and the San Antonio School of Nursing was placed administratively within the health science center. A separate building for the school of nursing was completed in 1974. In July 1990 a Ph.D in nursing was approved by the Texas Higher Education Board to be offered at UTHSC–SA. The B.S.N. to Ph.D program is a partnership between the Texas Tech University Health Science Center School of Nursing in Lubbock and the UTHSC–SA School of Nursing. In 1993 nineteen students were enrolled in the program.
The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio educates professionals in the fields of health care, conducts biomedical investigations in promising areas, and provides, through its human and physical resources, scholarly, clinical, and research services for the benefit of health professionals in San Antonio and South Texas. It also has hemophilia, nuclear medicine, diagnostic, and in-vitro fertilization centers. Research money from grants, contracts, and awards totaled $82 million in 1992, and the endowment fund was $15.7 million. The Industry-University Cooperative Research Center, funded in 1985 by the National Science Foundation in cooperation with industrial sponsors, enhanced the university's role in the community as a liaison between academic research and industry. The health science center, the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research, the Southwest Research Institute, and the University of Texas at San Antonio formed the Southwest Research Consortium in 1975. Research using combined facilities and expertise can be conducted among the members of the consortium that would not be possible in a single institution. In 1992 the Dolph Briscoe, Jr., Library was ranked in the top 25 to 30 percent of 145 health science libraries in the United States in terms of building size, users, and services provided. The center offers continuing education in medicine, dentistry, nursing, and allied health specialties through regular and special lectures on the campus, short courses off the campus, and teleconferencing. F. Carter Pannill, Jr., served as dean of the medical school from 1965 to 1971, when the health science center was established. Frank Harrison was the center's first president (1972–85). In 1998 the legislature authorized the establishment of a Regional Academic Health Center in the lower Rio Grande valley, to be administered by the medical school in San Antonio. The RAHC's medical education division, in Harlingen, was scheduled to open in 2002; the research division, in Edinburg, was scheduled to open the following year. In addition, the UTHSC–SA planned to open a Laredo campus extension, offering several degree programs through the allied health sciences school in San Antonio, in 2002. Francisco C. Cigarroa became president in 2000. UTHSC–SA enrollment in the fall of that year was 2,544 with a faculty of 1,365.