If you go to the Texas Tech Health Science Center, you'll probably see a birthday sign in a lot of places. Because right now, the medical school is celebrating its 35th year and it all began with a very important signature.
It was Governor Preston Smith who signed legislation in 1971 that helped finance the construction of a medical school way out there in Lubbock, Texas. "There was a scarcity of physicians in West Texas," says Dr. Roy Wilson, M.D., TTUHSC President.
That was a huge problem not a lot of doctors in Lubbock and not even one in 19 surrounding counties. So, with Tech President Grover Murray at the helm, the plans were quickly drawn for a medical school in Lubbock.
Even before there was a building at 4th street and Indiana, that first class of 36 freshmen came to Texas Tech to study medicine. Dr. Lorenz Lutherer was an Assistant Professor that first year with a department of four. "The school was started in a former dormitory that was remodeled," says Dr. Lutherer
Drane Hall became the Texas Tech Medical School in 1972. "The first year all the courses were being taught for the first time with very few faculty. It was a challenge," says Dr. Lutherer.
Finally, in 1976 the 4th street facility was born, and it's been growing ever since. The library started with just 11,000 resources. Today, there are more than 175,000 books and audio visuals available to students and the public.
Enrollment has increased to more than 500 students every year with a new academic building that includes high tech classrooms with wireless lap-top connections at every seat. The faculty and staff have grown from 120 that fist year to about 3,600 employed there today.
In fact, this place is so big that if you place each hallway back to back, you would walk the length of three football fields from one end to the other. That's why next week, they're breaking ground on a four story clinic.
So, remember the initial problem of not enough doctors around here? On this 35th anniversary, Texas Tech celebrates a tremendous accomplishment. "We have trained well over 7,000 health professionals for not only Texas but nationally. But the major of those has remained in Texas and half in west Texas," says Dr. Wilson.
Not just in Lubbock but the Texas Tech Medical School has four campuses in Amarillo, El Paso and Odessa.