A new law in Austin, a new era at UNTHSC

Published: June 5, 2017

a profile image of president mike williams and the words 'now and next'



Last week, thanks to the signature of Governor Greg Abbott and the hard work of countless colleagues, we have a new state law that significantly affects the future of UNT Health Science Center.

Following nearly unanimous votes of support in the House and Senate, the governor signed into law House Bill 1913. The new law does two key things for the Health Science Center:

  • It removes the long-standing prohibition against UNTHSC awarding an MD degree through the new TCU and UNTHSC School of Medicine.
  • It allows future presidents of this university to be a DO, an MD or a PhD, bringing a new diversity of perspective and expertise to our future leaders.

Most importantly, the new law moves us closer to achieving both our strategic goals and our vision of One University, built on values, defining and producing the providers of the future. Here’s how…

It strengthens UNTHSC’s position as we pursue new and expanded affiliations and rotations with hospitals and health care systems, and as we work to increase the number of GME opportunities for graduates of the new school and the Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine.

In addition, being able to issue MD degrees allows us to move forward in our effort to have a dual-name degree alongside TCU in the planned School of Medicine, pending accreditation. That was one of the original goals in this collaboration.

Issuing a new degree still requires approval from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. We plan to make our case as soon as possible.
The second part of the law, allowing future presidents of UNTHSC to have a DO, MD or PhD, is also critical. The requirement that only a DO lead this institution made sense when TCOM was a standalone school. Now that we are a true Health Science Center – focused on becoming One University through extraordinary teamwork – it is appropriate to consider leaders from different backgrounds to lead our complex organization.

The journey toward passage of this bill began several years ago, and its impact will extend long after I’m gone. It couldn’t have happened without the extraordinary teamwork from across the university and beyond.

I am thankful for Representative Charlie Geren, who authored the bill, for Senator Jane Nelson, who sponsored it in the Senate, and for Governor Abbott, who signed it into law. Our exceptional government relations team – Danny Jensen, Jack Morton, Rey Rodriguez and Liz Bolin – made sure lawmakers in Austin understood the issues and would support us.

For at least eight years, we’ve attempted to climb this hill in Austin. This week, we not only reached the summit, but we were able to plant our flag.

Financial strength is also critical to our One University vision. The budget outlook in Austin was far from ideal at the start of the session, with projected cuts as high as 10 percent. But we should feel good about where we ended, and I look forward to sharing those details with you at an upcoming town hall in the next month. All are invited. Look for details in Daily News.

Don’t forget to express appreciation to your co-workers when you see their good work. And thank you for all you do on behalf of the Health Science Center.

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Dr. Michael R. Williams
UNTHSC President