Lt. Gov. Dewhurst highlights economic impact of biomedical research during visit to UTHSCT

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst

Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, at left, discusses the economic importance of biomedical research with UTHSCT Vice President for Research Dr. Steven Idell, at right, and UTHSCT Director of Research Dr. Mark Atkinson, far right, while State Sen. Kevin Eltife, R-Tyler, looks on.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst emphasized the importance of biomedical research in boosting the economy and creating jobs during a Feb. 16 visit to The University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler.

"In this challenging economy every dollar counts. That’s why we’ve got to do everything we can to support institutions like UT Health Science Center at Tyler in maximizing their ability to draw research dollars into regions like East Texas," Lt. Gov. Dewhurst said during his tour of UTHSCT’s Biomedical Research Center with UTHSCT President Dr. Kirk A. Calhoun and other UTHSCT officials.

"These dollars don’t just pile up in a lab; they pay people’s salaries and fund research that can become the foundation of start-up companies that hire Texans – and all of this while leading to life-saving and life-changing medical discoveries," he added.

Between 2005 and 2009, UTHSCT was awarded almost $70 million in sponsored research funding, with many of those dollars coming from the National Institutes of Health.

NIH grants are highly prized, and research proposals by UTHSCT faculty routinely compete for funding with proposals from top medical research universities such as Harvard and Johns Hopkins.

The lieutenant governor praised UTHSCT Vice President for Research Dr. Steven Idell and his team, singling out their study of potential treatments for pulmonary fibrosis, or lung scarring, which kills 40,000 people each year.

"They’ve been able to do cutting-edge research and create jobs. Hopefully one of these days, after the clinical trials are done, you’re going to see businesses being developed, and more jobs created,” Lt. Gov. Dewhurst said.

In Fiscal Year 2009, UTHSCT was awarded 80 grants and contracts totaling nearly $15 million, representing a 10 percent increase from FY 2008.

The estimated economic impact of biomedical research on the East Texas region in FY 2009 was $33.5 million.

Increasing the amount of federal research funding also helps support UTHSCT’s family medicine and occupational medicine residency programs. It’s estimated that Texas will need an additional 40,000 physicians by 2025.

UTHSCT’s residency program currently has 21 residents in its Family Medicine program and three Occupational Medicine residents.

"UTHSCT is doing a remarkable job in research, education and patient care, and I am pleased that Lt. Governor Dewhurst is here to see it firsthand. I commend Dr. Calhoun and his team for their dedication and hard work," said Sen. Kevin Eltife, who joined Lt. Gov. Dewhurst on the tour of the biomedical research labs.

For 60 years, The University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler has provided excellent patient care and cutting-edge treatments, specializing in pulmonary disease, cancer, heart disease, primary care, and the disciplines that support them. With an operating budget of more than $125 million and biomedical research funding that exceeds $10 million annually, UTHSCT has a major economic impact on East Texas. Its two medical residency programs – in family medicine and occupational medicine – provide doctors for many communities in East Texas and beyond.

Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, at left, discusses the economic importance of biomedical research with UTHSCT Vice President for Research Dr. Steven Idell, at right, and UTHSCT Director of Research Dr. Mark Atkinson, far right, while State Sen. Kevin Eltife, R-Tyler, looks on.

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