SHSU answers call to healthcare need in Texas

Editor’s Note: This story is a republication of the original story “SHSU answers call to healthcare needs in Texas” from Jan. 31. Following vocal concerns from the Sam Houston State University Office of Communications, we pulled down the article for a 48-hour review. The editorial staff conducted an extensive review in conjunction with The Houstonian’s faculty adviser Dr. Marcus Funk, Department of Mass Communication Chair Dr. Jean Bodon and Dean of the College of Fine Arts and Mass Communication, Dr. Ronald Shields.

The Houstonian remains confident in its reporting. Conversations with the Office of Communications and other university officials have indicated that the publication of this article may influence the future of the proposed College of Osteopathic Medicine. With that in mind, it is incumbent upon The Houstonian to be as transparent as possible regarding its sources and information.

All quotations were derived from one-on-one conversations and/or emails with university staff including University Spokeswoman Emily Binetti and Dean of the proposed College of Osteopathic Medicine Dr. Charles Henley. Information regarding the college’s proposed opening date was confirmed by the program’s official website,; the page has since been removed as of 1 p.m. on Feb. 2. We have included screenshots of the website from 5 p.m. Feb. 1 where the original information was available as well as a second screenshot following the page’s removal.

The Houstonian regrets its factual inaccuracies in the photo caption of the print edition of this story in its Jan. 31 issue, which erroneously stated the College of Osteopathic Medicine was already approved. We also appreciate commentary from university officials that the lead sentence may have been ambiguous, and The Houstonian would like to clarify that the proposed College of Osteopathic Medicine is still under review. 

The Houstonian is republishing its original article without changes. Stay up-to-date with The Houstonian for the latest information.


Sam Houston State University is inching closer to establishing a college of osteopathic medicine, scheduled to open in Fall 2020. SHSU has secured a location in Conroe’s Grand Central Park, and each class will have 150 students and will have a capacity of 600 students.

“The facility will be built on land donated to the university,” University Spokeswoman Emily Binetti said. “The programming for the building is underway. We are also in the process of hiring additional staff and faculty.”

Osteopathic medicine uses modern medicine while also incorporating hands-on diagnosis and treatment through a system known as osteopathic manipulative medicine, according to the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine.

According to Dr. Charles Henley, dean of the college of osteopathic medicine, Houston is home to some of the best hospitals and medical research facilities in the world; the other 80 percent of Texas is medically underserved and predominantly rural. A medical school in Houston cannot adequately serve the people in East Texas towns like Crockett, Lufkin, Centerville and countless others.

The SHSU Osteopathic Medicine program is designed to focus on the primary care needs of those rural and underserved Texans, which follows the university motto “a measure of life is its service.” It will be a four-year, doctoral program that will consist of classroom training during the first two years followed by student rotations in medicine, surgery and women’s health.

SHSU conducted a regional needs assessment in 2013 for an overall health sciences strategic plan where two critical needs were identified: nurses and primary health physicians. The university then responded by doubling its already existent nursing program and initiating a study on how to best address the widening primary care gap, which Binetti said is predominantly in rural regions of Texas.

“This is what Sam Houston State University does,” Henley said. “It’s what we’ve always done since our founding as a teachers college. We identify a real need, build a corresponding program, educate the next generation of professionals and return them to the communities where they come from— where they are needed most.”

Four out of every five counties in Texas are designated as medically underserved and 177 counties out of 254 are classified as rural. A recent national report ranked Texas 36 out of 47 states for rural health care and assigned a “D-minus” to the state because of “low access to care, poor physical health and high mortality rates from heart disease and stroke.”

Henley said that recruitment will focus on students from rural and underserved areas to help build a pipeline of qualified medical students who are more likely to return to their communities, benefitting those people living in serviced areas. The university is also partnering with new teaching hospitals and medical facilities in the East Texas region to support the clinical training of 150 students.

“The proposed College of Osteopathic Medicine is affiliating with hospitals in rural areas to establish clerkship training programs,” Henley said. “There are numerous opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration between academic and research areas.”

The Texas State University System Board of Regents passed a motion for full approval to develop the proposed osteopathic medicine program in August 2017. According to Henley, the osteopathic medicine degree at SHSU is under review by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, and the next steps include a pre-accreditation site visit by the Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation and the completion of a self-study for provisional accreditation.

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