(COLLEGE STATION, TX) — The Texas A&M Health Science Center (TAMHSC) will receive continued funding from the state for expansion of the TAMHSC-College of Medicine at its campuses in Bryan-College Station, Temple and Round Rock and additional support for creation of a biosecurity initiative in the Rio Grande Valley following the signing of legislation by Gov. Rick Perry.

Appropriated to the TAMHSC-College of Medicine is $16 million in new monies for a total of $45 million during the next biennium to sustain the college’s current level of growth until the next legislature meets to consider funding needed for continued expansion aimed at quickly and effectively addressing the state’s physician work shortage. The dollars appropriated in the current state budget will be used to further the work initiated by a $33 million infusion in 2007 that was applied toward expanding the school’s Bryan-College Station and Temple campuses into full, four-year medical education programs. A new two-year clinical campus also was established in Round Rock, with construction of that facility on track for a fall 2009 opening.

“We deeply appreciate the support our legislative leaders have provided our institution for the continued expansion of the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine,” said Nancy W. Dickey, M.D., President of the Texas A&M Health Science Center and Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs for The Texas A&M University System.

“We are equally grateful for the investments appropriators made in our funding formulas, which support all of our colleges so that we may continue providing solutions to the unprecedented health care work force shortages facing Texas. Since 2007, we have been hard at work responding to the Texas Legislature’s directive to use our community-based education model to deliver a rapid increase in medical school graduates, and we look forward to continuing our efforts aimed at addressing the health care needs of our ever-growing population.”

Additionally, the 81st Texas Legislature has slated $1 million to support the Biosecurity and Import Safety initiative to be operated from the TAMHSC-South Texas Center in McAllen. The initiative will address complex public health issues in a major medical and biosecurity sensitive area along the Texas-Mexico border.

“The border region faces an array of acute public health challenges such as the presence of drug-resistant strains of tuberculosis, the need for expanded influenza readiness, and the need for additional programs to control diseases transmitted by insects or passed from animals to humans,” said Scott Lillibridge, M.D., executive director of The Texas A&M University System National Center for Emergency Medical Preparedness and Response (NCEMPR) and assistant dean of the TAMHSC-School of Rural Public Health. “Funding for this initiative will go to develop and implement critical capacities needed to detect public health threats as people and imports arrive at the border before these risks become established in the population.”

Two related pieces of legislation passed this session involve emergency management to address citizens’ health care needs during times of disaster.

The first law, focused on medical preparedness issues in Texas, allows for creation of a public health extension pilot program in the Lower Rio Grande Valley that would work in tandem with NCEMPR and the TAMHSC biosecurity initiative. The second law clarifies licensure requirements for administering outpatient dialysis to evacuees during times of disaster, a situation that arose following Hurricane Ike in 2008 when TAMHSC officials provided medical care to patients housed at Reed Arena in College Station.

Other notable legislation supporting the TAMHSC’s mission to improve the health of Texans includes statewide funding for the Professional Nursing Shortage Reduction program aimed at developing a comprehensive solution to increase enrollment and graduation of Texas-trained nurses. The law includes language to confirm participation of all nursing schools in the program, including those that are newly established such as the TAMHSC-College of Nursing that was created in 2008.

Additional information on all bills considered during the recent legislative session is available at www.capitol.state.tx.us.

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