2 min read December 2022 — UT Health San Antonio is one of the country’s leading health sciences universities. Invest: spoke with President William Henrich about its recent achievements, innovation and his near-term outlook.
What have been some of the highlights and achievements for UT Health San Antonio over the last 12 months?
We have three parts to our mission: clinical care, research and discovery, and education. In the clinical care arena, the clinical practice is now delivered by a faculty of over 2,000 people. And the scope of the practice has increased dramatically to approximately 2.6 million visits a year in 19 clinical sites in and around San Antonio, as well as with our partnered hospitals. There’s increased revenue of up to $650 million this year in the clinical practice. Finally, depending on which element in the clinical practice you look at, it is growing between 12% and 18% year-over-year. The demand signal has exceeded our ability to get timely access to many of our clinics because of the lingering effect of the COVID pandemic on the workforce and our ability to keep a full, robust number of individuals in service to this clinical mission. It’s a challenge for everybody in healthcare. There is a fatigue factor because the unrelenting demand of the clinical practice can be tiring. The good news is that our practice is robust, growing and continuing to thrive. We are a practice for everybody and take care of everybody. We are a practice that embraces the mission of everyone getting first-class care and not having to leave home.
In support of the clinical practice, we are building a new hospital due September 2024. It’s estimated that about 70% of the admissions to this new hospital will be for sophisticated medical and surgical oncology care. This project is a $500 million commercial project. In addition to that, we’re hiring 1,800 new employees in the next 18 to 24 months to staff the new hospital and clinics. We’re also building a large new outpatient center with an outpatient surgical center. It will open in February 2024.
The research mission now is at a point where it’s exceeding $400 million annually. This has led us to constantly renovate our wet lab. We’ve recruited outstanding new leaders for several new departments, including biochemistry, microbiology, and immunology. The Mays Cancer Center, which is a combination of clinical care and bio-medical investigation, is growing at a rate of about 12% to 15% per year, both in its research portfolio and in the number of patients it serves. Unfortunately, the forecast for our area of the country is that cancer diagnoses will increase by about 35% over the next decade.
On the education front, we’ve added a professional school, the new University of Texas School of Public Health San Antonio. It’s a collaborative project that we’re undertaking with the University of Texas San Antonio (UTSA). Enrollment begins in 2024 and we anticipate we will be able to grant a master’s degree in a couple of years. All of our professional schools are getting positive rankings. Finally, the student body that we are recruiting is distinguished and very competitive in terms of their credentials.
It’s important to note that one of the areas we’re building out is a center for drug discovery and investors who are interested in entrepreneurial projects and new patents coming to the fore should know about this drug discovery business. In collaboration with our partners in San Antonio, we can identify targets and get products in testing.
What is the importance of advancing diversity and equity in health?
It’s almost become a cliche that everybody is investing in diversity, equity and inclusion, but it shouldn’t be. For us, DEI has been part of our mantra because our city is ethnically diverse. Our city is home to a majority-minority population in that 65% to 67% of our population is Hispanic. Further to the south, it increases to 90%. We were recognized as a Hispanic-serving institution by the U.S. Department of Education. DEI is another part of our mission that we embrace fully. Based on NIH publications, improved healthcare outcomes and lower healthcare expenditures have been experienced when there is patient-physician concordance. In that respect, our institution is committed to providing culturally sensitive care and growing a student body and faculty who share that commitment. Our new vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion is charged with building a portfolio to increase meaningful diversity, equity and inclusion in our faculty and student body because we believe those things serve as catalysts for innovation, whether in education, care or research.
Is telehealth still an ongoing trend and what innovations are you implementing at UT Health San Antonio?
Telehealth has decreased since the height of the COVID pandemic but it is far more than it ever was before COVID. Certain areas are aligned with telehealth and it is the ability to reach a larger audience. Telehealth is here to stay and will be part of our portfolio. We are always looking for areas to expand it.
Another area of innovation is the increasingly sophisticated electronic medical record. The nice thing about the electronic medical record is that it unites the hospitals and our outpatient settings seamlessly to better integrate care and improve overall quality. Hopefully, it will improve access and make it easier for patients to contact us.
What is your outlook for UT Health San Antonio for the next couple of years and your top priorities going forward?
First of all, we have to meet the demand signal of the patient population. We’re growing in double-digits and the clinical side of our house is the financial engine to invest in research and education. We are a research-intensive health science center and that will continue. We will continue to grow at about 10 to 15% per year if these efforts are successful. Finally, we have to recruit the best and brightest clinical faculty for teaching. The attraction for coming here is the fact that our students are very happy here. We have an Abrazo culture here and it carries over into the way the students treat each other. There’s a saying that you always have two homes. The place where you live and San Antonio.
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