Stacks of challenge coins - gifts to Texas A&M University Health Science Center

Support grows for Health Science Center priorities

Gifts increase, focus on three priority areas and interprofessional education
February 22, 2019

Overall in 2018, gifts to the Texas A&M University Health Science Center’s colleges totaled more than $14.4 million. This was a large increase over the slightly more than $4 million given in 2017, which itself was nearly twice the amount in 2016.

Kirk Joseph, assistant vice president for development for the Health Science Center, attributes much of this growth to the Health Science Center’s focus on three priority areas—rural population health, military health and innovation through engineering—along with interprofessional education.

“One or more of these priorities is important to every member of the Aggie family,” said Joseph. “Everyone is touched by health care. Seeing support grow in these areas that we prioritize with our Aggie family is inspiring, and we are very thankful to everyone who shares this vision.”

Rural health care and interprofessional education

One major contribution to that total came from Sue and Joe Knowles ’50, MD. They gave a $7 million planned gift for endowed scholarships for both the Texas A&M College of Medicine and College of Nursing to honor the importance of team health care and provide for the next generation of rural medical professionals.

“No matter where you are working in a medical setting, doctors and nurses are a team,” said Joe Knowles.

Joe Knowles began his undergraduate degree at Texas A&M in 1946. He went on to receive his medical degree from the University of Texas Medical School at Galveston, served in the United States Air Force. He was in the first group to pass the exams and get certification in the Academy of Family Practice and practiced in rural Borger, Texas for 30 years. He knows that the need to pay student loans sends many providers to practice in the bigger cities and so sees the scholarship as a way to allow graduates to provide care to the rural areas like he did.

Military health and Innovation through engineering

Engineering Medicine (EnMed), Texas A&M’s innovative engineering medicine track, in partnership with Houston Methodist Hospital, received its first scholarship endowment to jumpstart the program from Rick and Kathy Spletter ’79.

The Spletter Memorial Scholarship is an endowed scholarship with a preference for an EnMed student—a  future “physicianeer”—who served, or made a commitment to serve, in the United States military.

“I was excited to hear about EnMed as an accredited program that would concretize the blending of engineering creativity and problem solving with a medical education,” Kathy Spletter said. “We know that quality health care is one of the most critical components of a quality life, and our current health care system needs creative solutions to reduce costs and improve care.”

Bringing it all together

These are just a few of the many gifts given to the Health Science Center through the Texas A&M Foundation.

“We have tremendously supportive former students and friends,” Joseph said. “They realize that Texas A&M is doing so much for the health of our state and its citizens.”

Many give back with their time as well. Because the College of Medicine has campuses all over the state, there is a great opportunity for local groups of former students to support current ones. Joseph mentioned the members of the Houston Aggie Medical Society specifically as spending a great deal of time mentoring students doing rotations at Houston Methodist Hospital.

“There are ways for every Aggie to contribute to our mission as we grow and build the Health Science Center to make an even greater impact,” Joseph said.

Through 2020, gifts to the Health Science Center will count toward Texas A&M University’s Lead by Example campaign, a $4 billion fundraising effort that currently stands at $3.4 billion. The campaign is the largest higher education campaign in Texas history and one of the largest nationally by a public university.

For more information about these opportunities and others, please contact Kirk Joseph at (979) 436-9107.

— Christina Sumners

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