Today, with more than 20 outpatient clinics, a hospital, and an Emergency Care Center, UT Health Science Center sees more than 138,500 outpatient visits and more than 3,700 inpatient stays each year.
The rich history of UT Health Science Center goes back to World War II. The site where the Health Science Center stands today was once part of Camp Fannin, an infantry training center which prepared more than 100,000 men a year for combat.
For more information about UT Health Science Center or Camp Fannin, please contact the Office of Public Affairs at 903-877-7075.
A Legacy of Service to East Texas
It was 1947. The early morning sunlight filtered through the East Texas pine trees, glinting off the boxy outlines of 40 white, wooden barracks that had been filled by sick and wounded World War II soldiers. These barracks were the 1,000-bed hospital at Camp Fannin, a U.S. Army camp established outside of Tyler in 1942 that trained over 100,000 infantrymen.
The war was over, and Camp Fannin had been decommissioned. It was a “disposable war asset,” and so most of its 30,000 acres – confiscated by the government in 1942 – were returned to East Texans who originally owned the land.
From a military barracks hospital to a tuberculosis sanatorium
In the 1940s, tuberculosis was the leading killer in the U.S, and a great need existed in East Texas for a hospital to treat patients with TB. The Camp Fannin Station Hospital barracks and 614 acres around it were given to the state by the federal government, and in 1947, the 50th Texas Legislature created the East Texas Tuberculosis Sanatorium, which would later become UT Health Northeast.
On June 1, 1949, the sanatorium received its first patients – 119 blacks who came from a Kerrville, Texas, sanatorium, plus 25 other African-Americans with tuberculosis. But TB didn’t discriminate, sickening both whites and blacks, and so both were housed and treated separately at that time, under the laws and customs of the segregated South.
In 1951, the 51st Texas Legislature christened the sanatorium the East Texas Tuberculosis Hospital, and by late 1955, the hospital housed over 800 patients. People with TB commonly waited for months before a hospital bed was available, and once hospitalized, stayed up to two years or more. In that same year, ground was broken for a hospital expansion, and a new six-story, 325-bed facility was completed in 1957.
There were two parks on campus, along with a picnic area, a fishpond, a theater, and a well-equipped library. The hospital had a dentist, beautician, and barber. Patients also traveled to Lake Tyler for fishing, to the rodeo, and to area fairs, all via a hospital bus.
The East Texas Chest Hospital
With the advent of new TB drugs, fewer patients entered the East Texas Tuberculosis Hospital and by 1961, the facility held about 500 patients. In 1969, the 61st Texas Legislature authorized the hospital to treat patients with other lung diseases, such as chronic bronchitis and emphysema.
In 1970, the hospital employed 300 people and had an annual budget of $10 million. That year, Dr. George Hurst was promoted to director of the hospital; he had served as clinical director since 1964. The hospital established its first outpatient clinic in 1966. The 62nd Texas Legislature in 1971 changed the institution’s name yet again, to the East Texas Chest Hospital.
It continued to grow, treating patients with all types of lung diseases and adding additional outpatient services. In 1975, the 64th Texas Legislature authorized a $17.3 million expansion. On Feb. 10, 1977, Gov. Dolph Briscoe presided over the groundbreaking of a new six-floor hospital building; the old hospital became office space.
Joining the UT System
The most significant change occurred on Sept. 1, 1977, when the hospital became UT Health Northeast (UT Health Northeast), part of The University of Texas System. The late State Sen. Peyton McKnight of Tyler sponsored a bill that transferred the East Texas Chest Hospital from the Texas Department of Health to the UT System.
Tyler leaders such as Royce Wisenbaker, Sr., and Isadore Roosth provided key support. With its specialization in lung disease, UT Health Northeast became the state referral hospital for cardiopulmonary disease. Its primary mission was threefold: patient care, education, and research.
In September 1980, UT Health Northeast opened its new six-story hospital tower. On Nov. 8, 1983, UT Health Northeast physicians performed the first open heart surgery in East Texas. That same year, Dr. Allen B. Cohen, a prominent pulmonologist from Temple University in Philadelphia, was recruited to lead UT Health Northeast’s fledgling biomedical research program.
The Watson W. Wise Medical Research Library, the only medical library between Dallas and Shreveport, was dedicated in 1984. In 1985, construction of a $9 million, 71,000-square-foot Center for Biomedical Research began; it was completed in 1987.
In the area of education, a Family Practice Residency Program opened in 1985. It was the first graduate-level medical training program in East Texas. With support from the Texas Chest Foundation, the Texas Asthma Camp for Children also began in 1985, and continues today as the oldest, largest asthma camp in the state.
In 1993, the 73rd Texas Legislature established the Center for Pulmonary and Infectious Disease Control (CPIDC) on UT Health Northeast campus. An Occupational Medicine Residency Program began in 1995, and UT Health Northeast partnered with Stephen F. Austin State University to offer master’s degrees in environmental science and biotechnology.
A new building for outpatient clinics
The four-story, 80,000-square-foot Ambulatory Care Center (ACC) opened in late 1996 at a cost of $12.8 million. The third and fourth floors were left unfinished, waiting for future growth. In 1998, Dr. Hurst retired as director after 34 years, and Ronald F. Garvey, MD, became the first president of UT Health Northeast.
In 2002, Dr. Garvey retired, and Kirk A. Calhoun, MD, became president. The third floor of the ACC opened, becoming the new home of the Primary Care Clinic, the Robert B. Irwin Internal Medicine Clinic, and the Center for Diabetes Care. The fourth floor opened in the summer of 2005, with the Women’s Wellness Center and surgical services located there. In June 2005, the ACC became the Riter Center for Advanced Medicine, honoring A.W. “Dub” Riter, Jr., longtime UT Health Northeast friend and development board member, and member of the UT System Board of Regents.
The 78th Texas Legislature designated UT Health Northeast as the East Texas Center for Rural Geriatric Studies in 2003, which has become known as the Center for Healthy Aging.
In 2004, the $2.2 million Public Health Lab of East Texas, a joint project of UT Health Northeast and the Texas Department of Health, opened on the UT Health Northeast campus. The lab enables researchers to identify and study common and emerging infections important to public health. For the first time, UT Health Northeast’s biomedical research funding exceeded $10 million.
Biomedical Research Center opens $11.3 million addition
In April 2005, an $11.3 million, 30,000-square-foot addition to the Center for Biomedical Research opened with 17 new labs. In May 2005, to further its educational mission, the 79th Texas Legislature gave UT Health Northeast degree-granting authority.
In fall 2005, UT Health Northeast received the largest government-funded research grant in its history: a $7.8 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to study lung scarring. UT Health Northeast received 80 new grants in fiscal year 2005, totaling $11.3 million.
In the mid-1990s, the Research Council and the President’s Council were established to provide unrestricted funds to supplement ongoing research projects, purchase special equipment, and provide scholarships that enhance Health Science Center research.
In 2008, the UT System Board of Regents approved the use of “science” in the institution’s name. It officially became UT Health Northeast.
In fall 2009, a study by HealthGrades, the leading independent health-care ratings organization, found that UT Health Northeast is among the top 10 percent of hospitals in the nation for pulmonary care.
UT Health Northeast received the 2010 Pulmonary Care Excellence Award, as well as Five-Star Ratings for treatment of pneumonia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD.
It also received the 2009/2010 Outstanding Patient Experience Award, placing it in the top 5 percent of hospitals nationwide for providing exemplary service to patients.
Ground broken for Academic Center
In October 2009, ground was broken for UT Health Northeast’s new $67 million, 81,000 square-foot Academic Center. The three-story building will house a new cancer center on the first floor.
It will have classrooms for an expanded Family Medicine Residency Program, a new Watson W. Wise Medical Research Library, and a large auditorium on the second and third floors.
Currently, UT Health Northeast has about 70 physicians in the areas of adolescent health, adult/pediatric allergy and immunology, aviation medicine, cardiovascular disease and surgery, diabetes, family medicine, gastroenterology, geriatrics, gynecology, infectious disease, internal medicine, neurology, occupational medicine, oncology, pediatrics, adult/pediatric pulmonary disease, rheumatology, sleep medicine, sports and travel medicine, surgery, urology, and vascular disease.
The Health Science Center’s annual operating budget for fiscal year 2010 was $125 million, and UT Health Northeast has more than 800 employees.
As UT Health Northeast begins its seventh decade, it continues in the words of its mission, “to serve East Texas and beyond through excellent patient care and community health, comprehensive education, and innovative research.”