So, how did the Texas Tech Medical School come into the picture in Lubbock? We have learned that few people really understand the incredible significance of housing a medical school in a city this size and how that has literally changed the quality of life in West Texas.
It was then Governor Preston Smith who signed legislation in 1971 that helped finance the construction of a medical school way out there in Lubbock, Texas. The problem was there were so few doctors practicing in Lubbock and 19 surrounding counties were in desperate need of health care.
Dr. Bernhard Mittemeyer, long time professor in Urology, explained it like this, "We were losing all of our young men and women from this region. They were going east of I-35 and often times they wouldn't come home. And there were counties larger than some states that didn't have a physician and very few nurses."
So, the idea was to bring the students to Lubbock to learn and maybe they'd like West Texas and stay. With Tech President Grover Murray at the helm, the plans were quickly drawn for a medical school in Lubbock. The dirt was hardly tossed in the groundbreaking ceremonies when that first class of 36 freshmen came here to become doctors.
You might be surprised to see where that first class lined up to learn medicine in Lubbock. It was on the Texas Tech campus at Drane Hall. That was originally a dormitory, but was quickly remodeled to look like a medical school. Even so, that first year was a really tough one - and not just for the medical students.
Dr. Lorenz Lutherer recalls the difficulties since he was an Assistant Professor that first year, with a department of four. "That first year all the courses were taught for the first time with very few faculty," he says. "You had to develop the course, so it was a challenge."
But just four years later, in 1976, the 4th Street facility was born as the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, leading the way over the next few decades for the Schools of Nursing and Allied Health Sciences; the graduate School of Biomedical Sciences; and then later, a Texas Tech Pharmacy School in Amarillo, in Dallas, and more recently in Abilene. Now, another medical school campus is set to open in El Paso for enrollment in 2009.
The faculty and staff have grown from a handful that first year - to about 4,000 today. "The Medical School makes it attractive not only to be a faculty member here, but to be a community physician, because we get a lot of the specialists in medical education and a lot of community physicians like to work with the students. So we like to think that we've made it an attractive place for everybody to come to," said Dr. Steven Berk, Dean of the Texas Tech Medical School.
So, remember the initial problem of not enough doctors around here? This year, the Texas Tech Health Sciences Center had more than 1,000 graduates when you combine all the ceremonies. That's after having trained more than 10,000 health professionals since that first year at Drane Hall, and thankfully, a good number of those have decided to stay in West Texas and fill our phone books with quality health care choices.
From Lubbock General to University Medical Center