By   – Reporter, Houston Business Journal

The University of Houston College of Medicine received a $5 million donation to support, attract and retain medical students.

UH received the gift from Richardson, Texas-based Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas, the largest health insurance provider in the Lone Star State. Some $3.5 million will go toward granting scholarships to at least 35 medical students, according to a Jan. 22 press release. The remaining $1.5 million is devoted to creating a pipeline program to attract and retain a diverse range of medical students interested in careers in primary care.

“The gift to the UH College of Medicine holds true to our focus on lowering health care costs through long-term, sustainable community investments,” said Dan McCoy, president of BCBSTX. “This investment is about the future of health care. Primary care physicians will be the cornerstones of that future.”

The BCBSTX scholarships will provide $100,000, four-year scholarships to at least 35 medical students. The College of Medicine will use an admissions process that factors in MCAT scores and predictors for those “most likely to pursue primary care,” according to the release.

Those predictors include individuals who have family members in service-oriented careers; those pursuing medicine as a second career; candidates that are African American, Hispanic or from rural areas; and individuals with previous experience in primary care in another capacity. The UH College of Medicine aims for at least half of each graduating class to practice primary care in order to address a statewide shortage of physicians.

Using the remaining $1.5 million, the College of Medicine will develop a pipeline program targeting ethnically and socioeconomically diverse students. Part of the funding will go toward hiring a director of outreach and diversity to study successful pipeline programs and to promote diverse faculty hiring.

“With a focus on improving health, we will educate physicians who will be able to provide a path to a productive and more enjoyable life for the residents of our city and state,” said Renu Khator, president of the University of Houston.

On Aug. 21, 2019, the university held a bill signing ceremony with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to commemorate the establishment of the College of Medicine. The same day, the College of Medicine released new renderings of its planned 150,000-square-foot facility.

The new building will be constructed on a 43-acre tract of land on the UH campus, along Martin Luther King Boulevard across from MacGregor Park. The four-story medical school is scheduled to break ground this spring and is expected to come online in summer 2022.

The UH College of Medicine will admit its first class beginning in the fall 2020 semester. In July 2018, an anonymous donor gifted $3 million to cover the tuition for the 30 medical students in the first class.

In August 2019, UH received a $50 million gift from an anonymous donor to establish four STEM new institutes, which will “address crucial challenges” in the areas of energy, infrastructure, precision medicine and global engagement.


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