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Texas A&M invests $500M in Medical Center to create new tier of doctors, medical devices

Houston’s Texas Medical Center home to program

HOUSTON – Houston is already known for its world-class medical care, and now, the Texas Medical Center is raising the bar again.

On Thursday, Texas A&M University System announced a new engineering-medicine program that will be housed in a gleaming, three-building campus at the Texas Medical Center at the intersection of Holcombe Boulevard and Main Street.

The $500 million project will become the home of the engineering-medicine program, which will create a new tier of doctors and engineers known as "physician-eers.” Students in the program will earn both a master’s in engineering and a medical doctor’s degree. The hybrid doctor has a very specific mission: change the world by creating the next big medical device that will change people’s lives.

William McKeon, the president and CEO of the Texas Medical Center, said this is needed because doctors know when patients have a medical need for a device, but the doctors don’t have the engineering backgrounds to create the device. The solution is to create a doctor-engineer hybrid.

“Pacemakers were larger than a podium 20 years ago; now it’s the size of a dime,” McKeon said. “That’s a physician saying, ‘We got to make those devices smaller. We got to put them inside the body so a person with a faulty heart can live for eight or ten years with a device on it.’”

24-year-old Priya Arunachlam is one of the so-called “physician-eers.”

“We all have a background in engineering and we are all interested in innovation,” she said.

Arunachlam, who is already taking engineering classes, starts medical school in August. In order to earn her degrees, she’ll have to invent a medical device and turn it in in place of a thesis.

“We are out there to change the world,” Arunachlam said. “All of us are extremely ambitious, and I guess lookout for the new generation of physician-eers.”

Construction is expected to be completed in the summer of 2022. The campus will also include student housing as well as a parking garage.