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Chamber study puts med school impact at $2.4 billion

Tuesday, February 12, 2008 by Austin Monitor

The Austin Chamber of Commerce unveiled a new study on Monday of the beneficial effects a new medical school at the University of Texas could have on the Central Texas region. The study, conducted by The Perryman Group, predicted the school would contribute $2.4 billion each year to the local economy, generate 19,000 new jobs, and lead to significant improvements in the quality and availability of health care for the indigent.


“When you have a medical school facility located in a community, one of the things that happens is there is better care provided for indigent health care. We need this sort of thing in Central Texas,” said State Senator Kirk Watson, who joined officials from the Chamber and Mayor Will Wynn for the release of the study at City Hall. “Doctors that train in a place tend to stay in a place. We are missing out on that, because we don’t have the opportunity to attract and retain these talented medical professionals.”


Beyond attracting more doctors and nurses to the region, the report predicted that a medical school could make Austin more attractive to companies in the developing biomedical field. “Bio-medicine is concentrated in about nine cities across the country.  The common denominator that you find in these places…that we’re missing in Texas…is you find a great medical school and a great university combined,” said economist Ray Perryman. “You find them in the same location, same place, able to capture the synergies that come from that. That’s really the big missing piece.”


Since Austin is not currently a national leader in bio-technology, Perryman said attracting significant new development in that field could boost the medical school’s economic impact significantly. “What if we were a typical place to do bio-medicine, what if we did as well in that as we did in the average industry? You’re talking about Austin getting an additional 60,000 jobs and Texas getting an additional 100,000 jobs.”


A new medical school combined with a major research institution such as UT, Perryman said, could place Austin at the forefront of the development of new medical technologies in the same way Sematech helped make the city a major player in the semiconductor industry. “There’s a new scientific movement called ‘convergence’, and it deals with nano-technology that’s being developed,” Perryman said, “where it’s going to bring together materials science, bio-technology , electronics…and a lot of other fields that are out there into basically a single industry. There’s going to be a few cities that capture that industry, and the piece that is missing in that whole arena is the biomedical piece.”


But Perryman also predicted that the creation of a new medical school could require approximately $500 million dollars, much of which would need to come from the private sector. “When you think about a medical school being located in the central city, it will take multiple facilities to support that,” added St. David’s Healthcare CEO Jon Foster. “Brackenridge, the Dell Children’s Medical Center, and St. David’s Medical Center all stand ready to do that.”


Officials with the Austin Chamber of Commerce hope the Perryman report will spur talks between the University of Texas and local business leaders about a new medical school.


“There has to be a very specific plan as to how to create that medical school, and that would be something that the community…along with the university system and donors everywhere…would have to be a part of,” said Austin Chamber of Commerce Chair Joe Holt. “A key to all of that is raising the money to do this. Those discussions have certainly not occurred yet, but it will take a lot of money to do this. And the business community needs to be out front and readily admitting that we want this, we need to be a part of that effort, but there’s a great deal that needs to be done.”

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