The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) voted Tuesday to approve Sam Houston State University’s proposal for a College of Osteopathic Medicine by a vote of 5-4.
On July 26, SHSU President Dana Hoyt addressed the THECB at their quarterly meeting to discuss SHSU’s proposed College of Osteopathic Medicine.
Hoyt was accompanied by a handful of supporters, including Dr. Jaime Garza who has served on the board of regents since 2011. Garza testified to the board that he was an advocate of SHSU obtaining the proposed program.
“I can assure you that SHSU’s proposed College of Osteopathic Medicine is well-thought out, workable, and needed in the state of Texas,” Garza said. “SHSU’S [proposed] College of Osteopathic Medicine moves us a great distance in the right direction. I encourage [the board] to support this proposal.”
Not everyone present was as optimistic about SHSU’s proposal, however. A major source of opposition seemed to come from Dr. Stacy Silverman, the deputy assistant commissioner for academic quality at the coordinating board. Silverman claimed that SHSU’s financial structure was either unclear or unable to sustain itself.
“The budget model doesn’t work,” Silverman said. “The institution was unable or unwilling to provide us with any information on scholarships.”
Texas State University System Chancellor Dr. Brian McCall assured the board the financial structure was sound.
“The financial situation is not a problem,” McCall said. “We have $166 million in capital reserves. There is an account of $44 million we don’t touch.”
Silverman was responsible for assembling the team that conducted a site visit at SHSU earlier this year to assess the university’s preparedness to successfully institute their proposed D.O. (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine) program. She described the financial part of SHSU’s proposal as “confusing” when discussing enrollment, tuition, and fees (which would likely amount to approximately $55,000 per student).
Silverman’s concerns were echoed by THECB Commissioner Raymund Paredes and Chairman Stuart Stedman.
“My decision to recommend denial for this program was fundamentally based on the fact that this proposal is based on a fallacy,” Paredes said. “Rural communities are dying. People don’t want to live in small towns, including recent medical school graduates.”
According to information presented by board members at the meeting in July, there are 164 rural hospitals in Texas. Approximately one-third of those are in danger of closing. 90 of the 164 have 25 beds or less; the rest have 50 beds or less. Stedman aligned with Paredes, citing ambiguity within certain areas of SHSU’s proposal.
“This is really hard,” Stedman said. “There is a tremendous amount of uncertainty. The proposal, to me, seems rushed and incomplete. The model is not unique, nor is it particularly innovative.”
Board member Arcilia Acosta motioned to table the discussion, which led to the board reconvening Tuesday to examine more information and partake in a second discussion before casting a final vote. Acosta and others felt it best to reconvene at a later date due to the importance of this matter to the entire state of Texas.
“5.7 million people are counting on us as a board to make the right decision,” Acosta said.
The THECB reconvened Tuesday at 10 a.m. with Hoyt once again in attendance, this time joined by Dr. Charles Henley—dean of the proposed College of Osteopathic Medicine. After more than three hours of deliberation and discussion between Hoyt, her supporters, and board members, the THECB approved SHSU’s proposal for a College of Osteopathic Medicine.
The accreditation process is still ongoing with the Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation (COCA). SHSU is currently in applicant status seeking accreditation, and will submit the approval to the COCA executive committee for review. SHSU will be notified once a decision is made concerning the university’s potential candidacy status. Stay up to date with The Houstonian for more information as details develop.
Below is the complete list of how each board member voted.
Voted ‘YES’: Arcilia Acosta, Michael Plank, John Steen, Donna Williams, Welcome Wilson
Voted ‘NO’: S. Javaid Anwar, Fred Farias III, Ricky Raven, Stuart Stedman