UH College of Medicine gets $5M gift to fund scholarships, attract diverse students

HOUSTON – The University of Houston College of Medicine received a $5 million gift from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas with the aim of attracting diverse students pursuing primary care medicine, according to a release.

The contribution will be divided into $3.5 million for scholarships and $1.5 million to create a pipeline program to attract and retain students from diverse backgrounds who are interested in practicing primary care medicine.

The scholarship fund will provide $100,000 scholarships to at least 35 medical students. The medical school says it will begin a holistic admission process that not only factors in Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) scores and grade point average but also other factors that might predict if a student is likely to pursue primary care as a profession. Some of those factors include:

  • Individuals who have family members in service-oriented careers
  • Those pursuing medicine as a second career
  • Candidates who are African American, Hispanic or from rural areas
  • Individuals with previous experience in primary care in another capacity

The pipeline program will target ethnically and socioeconomically diverse K-12 and pre-medicine college students with an interest in primary care, according to the news release. A director of outreach and diversity will be hired to study successful pipeline programs and hire a diverse faculty. Some of the gift money will also go towards funding for a Ph.D. faculty member to develop an academic support system.

The new medical school aims for at least half of each graduating class to practice primary care to address the statewide shortage of physicians in underserved urban and rural communities, where health disparities are most dire, per the release.

The college will admit 30 students in its inaugural class, pending accreditation by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education, reaching a total of 120 students per class and a total of 480 students at full enrollment.

Tuition and fees for the Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree will begin at $23,755 per year.

An anonymous $3 million donation will pay the full tuition or the college’s inaugural class, which will begin in the fall of 2020, KPRC 2 previously reported.

“Student loan debt is a significant deterrent to pursuing primary care specialties. The result is more physicians in non-primary care specialties, and a marked decline in primary care doctors,” said Dr. Stephen Spann, founding Dean of the medical school. “This is precisely why training primary care physicians is an urgent need. We’re grateful to Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas for enabling more students to pursue their medical education at the University of Houston.”

The $5 million contribution is part of the “Here, We Go” campaign, the university’s first major systemwide fundraising campaign in more than 25 years. The University of Houston has raised more than $1 billion for scholarships, faculty support and partnerships through the campaign.

“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. Recruiting and retaining the most diverse and academically competitive students, regardless of financial resources, is a top priority for our medical school," said UH President Renu Khator.

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