The University of the Incarnate Word will locate its new School of Osteopathic Medicine at Brooks City Base on the Southside of San Antonio. The partnership became official this afternoon in the Brooks City Base board room, filled with enthusiastic university administrators and equally excited urban developers. The Board of Directors approved the terms of the agreement with no opposition. Shortly afterwards, UIW President Dr. Louis Agnese and Brooks City Base President and CEO Leo Gomez signed a Memorandum of Understanding and shook on the deal.
Brooks City Base is looking forward to hosting the new UIW medical school, Gomez said, because it will add momentum to the wave of economic development already happening in the Southside.
“This seemed like such a natural and transformative fit for UIW, for Brooks and for this entire community, and I am so pleased that we’ve been able to reach this point,” said District 3 Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran in a prepared statement. Brooks City Base – and most of the Southside – lies in Viagran’s district. “This campus and the Southside is one of the most exciting places to be in San Antonio right now. You can truly feel the energy and see the momentum and I can’t wait to see what this partnership will bring to District 3.”
Gomez placed the coming UIW presence on par with the recently established Southside presence of Toyota manufacturing and Texas A&M-San Antonio. Gomez said the partnership was also good for San Antonio at large. In addition to creating more opportunities for education and employment, the partnership lays important foundations for improving public health, he said.
The UIW-BCB partnership is the result of years of infrastructure-building work from Brooks City Base developers. The alignment of a star or two may be helping the hard work pay off in spades. This announcement comes about two months after UIW abandoned its plan to partner with SAISD for a downtown campus. The partnership would have located the school on the former Fox Tech High School campus. In a press release announcing the change in plans, UIW stated that “the downtown location would require the university to build from the ground up on limited space.”
The Southside location requires no such limitations, Dr. Agnese said. “Brooks has the space and resources to allow us to develop a state-of-the-art facility that will allow UIW to fulfill the healthcare mission of our founders, the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word.”
The selected campus is located in the northwest corner of the Brooks City Base campus in an area known as “The Hill,” a registered historic district which previously housed the U.S. Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine. Phase I of the implementation plan provides three-and-a-half more buildings and additional parking. All together, the UIW satellite campus will encompass seven buildings situated on 23.65 acres with classrooms laboratories, administrative and faculty offices, a student center, and an auditorium.
Gomez said that he and the board are “thrilled to welcome UIW and look forward to bringing new life to one of the most beautiful and significant spaces on our campus.”
At the announcement of the UIW-BCB partnership, UIW President Agnese assured attendees that he remained committed to SAISD and its workforce development efforts. He acknowledged that the terms of the UIW-SAISD partnership would have to be renegotiated.
When the medical school opens in August of 2016, it will begin to connect San Antonio residents with access to more primary medical care.
“About half of the counties in Texas have insufficient numbers of primary care physicians. One of the goals of our medial school will be to increase the number of primary care doctors practicing in underserved areas,” Agnese said.
About 50 full-time faculty and upwards of 200 part-time faculty will teach at the new medical school, Agnese said, who said UIW hopes that many of the graduates will decide to stay and work in currently underserved San Antonio communities.
As the School of Osteopathic Health, medical curriculum will emphasize treatment of the whole person. This focus contrasts with specialty medical curriculums that focus on particular symptoms or a specific disease. The osteopathic approach will likely figure prominently in the diabetes clinic UIW plans to house in the Brooks City Campus. The success of UIW’s Eastside optometry clinic, which Agnese claims is the busiest optometry clinic in the state, bodes well for the ability of the diabetes clinic to make it easier for San Antonians to access education and care. According to the American Diabetes Association, more than 14 percent of San Antonians have diabetes, compared to the national average of 7 percent.
UIW will begin relocating its physical therapy program to its Brooks City Base campus by 2018, and Agnese also described plans to establish a masters level program for physician assistants. This degree plan is known for enabling its graduates to land satisfying jobs upon graduation. An engineering program is also in the works. Agnese sees the Brooks Academy of Science and Engineering, a STEM-accredited charter school serving grades K-12, as a feeder into the UIW medical and engineering programs.
A U.S. Air Force Base until 2011, Brooks City Base continues its redevelopment into a 1,200 acre mixed-use community. Its space and resources are currently being directed towards residential, commercial, and educational opportunities including Mission Trail Baptist Hospital, DPT Laboratories, and nearly two dozen other businesses. The Brooks development also offers a luxury apartment community, The Landing, and single-family homes. Gomez describes it as “a true community where people can live, work, learn, and play.”
According to a press release, the agreement outlines that “UIW would lease the buildings from Brooks City Base for a term of 25 years beginning August 1, 2014. UIW will be responsible for financing and construction costs and would be granted ownership of the property. The two organizations will now negotiate the details in the final lease agreement with intentions of opening the school in 2016.”
*Featured/top image: Rendering of the soon-to-be UIW School of Osteopathic Medicine at Brooks City Base. Courtesy image.