UT Health Northeast dedicated the second and third floors of its academic center paving the way for expanded education and medical treatment in the region.
The second floor includes a comprehensive breast center along with clinics for surgery, gastrointestinal issues and urology.
The third floor includes a large amphitheater, the Watson W. Wise Medical Research Library and classrooms for medical residencies, continuing education and future undergraduate and graduate degree programs.
“I’m proud of this building, but I’m far more proud of our people who put so much into making this building better,” UT Health Northeast President Dr. Kirk Calhoun said Tuesday while speaking to guests seated in the amphitheater.
The first phases of the academic center construction, which included the building shell and the first floor cancer center, was completed in fall 2011 and cost $42 million, according to information provided by the center. The second and third floors, completed last month, cost an additional $30 million.
Funding for the center comes from tuition revenue, bonds, local institutional funds from patient care revenue and philanthropic support.
Calhoun said the new educational and medical facilities will enable the health science center to expand its educational offerings, its residency program and maybe even add a medical school someday.
“This is the last region of the state that does not have a medical school,” he said.
Getting one in this area “will take community support, political support and us continuing to do a good job,” he said.
Patients, students and doctors in residency programs are among those who will benefit from the new facilities.
The new Breast Center is home to some of the most advanced technology for medical services.
Tim Ochran, vice president for clinical integration and ancillary services, said it features digital screening and mammography, 3-D ultrasound machines, molecular breast imaging and contrast-enhanced imaging.
The facility provides one location for people to go to for breast care with its own entrance and reception area and a consultation room for patients.
Dr. Jonathan MacClements, UT Health Northeast’s dean of medical education, said the new amphitheater will be used for a variety of programs.
These include grand rounds, which are educational lectures designed for physicians and other health care providers, and tumor board, in which experts in different medical specialties review and discuss a patient’s condition and treatment options.
He said it’s the community’s facility to use as needed.
“We’re excited that we can use this for education in the … Northeast Texas area,” he said.
Tom Craig, director of library services, said the new library provides more visibility and a more inviting atmosphere.
It has floor-to-ceiling windows that separate the area from the hallway and several windows with views of the outdoors.
It also features private study rooms and a reading area along with new furniture and computers.
“This puts us a little more on the footing with the image of the university library,” Craig said.
With these additions, the center is looking to attract more people. Ochran said the center serves about 5 percent of all cancer patients in East Texas and is on track to double that.
About one third of the area’s cancer patients leave the area for treatment and Ochran said the goal is to lower that number.
Bob Garrett, chairman of the UT Health Northeast Development Board, said the health science center has much to offer in terms of cancer treatment, research and academic programs and he is not sure if the community realizes the significance of all of these elements being in one place.
Demand is huge for the physician training programs and with a shortage of doctors in East Texas, the presence of this facility is providing a way to address the issue, he said. National trends show that doctors tend to continue practicing at or near the facility where they train.
Garrett said the new facilities will give the health science center the opportunity to expand its programs over time, something that is great for the area.
Calhoun echoed these comments during his remarks.
“It’s about putting the (things) in place so that our campus, UT Tyler, Northeast Texas and this entire region can more forward,” he said.