Fertitta, owner of the Houston Rockets and longtime chairman of the UH System Board of Regents, and his family pledged $50 million to the University of Houston College of Medicine, the university announced on Thursday.
The medical school was founded in 2019 with a mission to improve health care in underserved urban and rural communities where poor health outcomes are often more prevalent.
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The college focuses on education for students committed to primary care and other needed physician specialties.
The Fertitta family's $50 million gift to the University of Houston's new medical school will help make the mission of increasing health care access in underserved communities a reality. pic.twitter.com/LNmzrUeVET— University of Houston (@UHouston) May 19, 2022
A 2021 analysis found 249 of Texas' 254 counties have areas of shortages of primary care physicians. In 228 of them, the entire county has a shortage, nearly double the amount observed in 2019.
The Fertitta Family College of Medicine wants to address this by aiming for at least half of its graduates to choose to practice primary care, when only about 20% of medical students do so nationwide.
"Our family has such a passion for this medical school and its pursuit of health equity so everyone, regardless of race, ethnicity, zip code or socioeconomic status, has the same opportunity to be as healthy as possible," Fertitta said in a press release. "My hope is that the Tilman J. Fertitta Family College of Medicine will be a game-changer for the health and well-being of Texans by improving access to quality health care, advancing medical knowledge and improving patient care through health and health care research."
Here's the breakdown of the $50 million donation:
- $10 million funds five endowed chairs for faculty hires who are considered national stars in their fields with a focus on health care innovation.
- $10 million establishes an endowed scholarship fund to support endowed graduate research stipends/fellowships for medical students.
- $10 million will cover start-up costs for the Fertitta Family College of Medicine to enhance research activities including facilities, equipment, program costs and graduate research stipends/fellowships.
- $20 million will create the Fertitta Dean's Endowed Fund to support research-enhancing activities.
The portion of the gift that funds the endowed chairs for faculty hires will be matched one-to-one as part of UH's "$100 Million Challenge" for chairs and professorships, doubling the endowed principal to $20 million.
With the announcement, UH launched the $100 million fundraising campaign for the college to support scholarships, faculty recruitment and operational needs for equipment, programs, student success initiatives and more.
"Tilman Fertitta and his family have made a visionary investment, so it is only fitting this new, ambitious and forward-thinking medical school should bear the Fertitta name. It will have a remarkable and lasting impact on Houston and the world. Thanks to the Fertitta family's amazing generosity, the financial security and longevity of the medical school is cemented for generations to come," said UH President Renu Khator.
The Fertitta Family College of Medicine will have an estimated regional economic impact of $377 million by 2029 and will expand health-related research at the University of Houston by an estimated 400% over the next 30 years, according to UH.
The first two classes of medical students have been taking classes in the Health 2 building, which is the medical school's temporary home until construction on a new $80 million building is completed this summer.
The three-story building is located on 43-acres of previously undeveloped campus land that will be part of a future life sciences complex along Martin Luther King Boulevard.
This isn't the first building at UH with Fertitta's namesake. In 2016, he donated $20 million to UH athletics to help transform the basketball arena into the Fertitta Center.
In addition to owning the Houston Rockets, Fertitta owns restaurant giant Landry's and the Golden Nugget casinos and hotels.
SEE ALSO: Inside look at UH's Fertitta Center