CAPITOL UPDATE: Senate Finance considers higher education budget

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Capitol Update: Senate Finance considers
higher education budget

posted 01.31.13

The Senate Finance Committee heard testimony on article III of the state budget, which contains all funding for higher education including medical school appropriations and graduate medical education, or GME. Several questions from committee members dealt with the lack of growth in the number of residency training positions available in the state.

The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board released a report last year showing that the number of available first-year residency positions in Texas has not kept pace with the increase in medical school enrollment for several years. The report states that by 2016, 180 more medical students will graduate from Texas medical schools than the number of first-year residency slots. Since Texas invests $168,000 over the four years of education for each medical student, even if every medical student who could entered an in-state residency, the state would still be forfeiting more than $30 million to subsidize the physician workforce of other states.

THECB has recommended the state find a way to offer 1.1 first-year residency positions for every medical school graduate, but Senate Finance Chair Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, indicated he wants more in a committee hearing on Tuesday, Jan. 29. He gave a charge to the state’s health-related institutions in attendance.

“I want you to come to my staff with a plan to meet the coordinating board goals for residency slots over the next two years, and I will find a way to fund those residency slots if you guys will bring me a plan for how you’re going to do it, okay? And I don’t want to limit it to 1.1 or 1.2 to 1, I want it to be 2 to 1 eventually, but we’ve got to get the goal that they’ve set out for us first.”

Later in the afternoon, TAFP member Travis Bias, D.O., told the committee that during medical school, his experience with a four-day family medicine preceptorship led him to become a family physician.

“At the time, family medicine was at the bottom of my list. However, after spending four days observing [the preceptor’s] practice, I started to rethink my area of specialization.”

Bias described the broad range of medicine a family physician practices daily and the relationships such a physician shares with patients, and decided family medicine was the specialty for him. “I learned primary care was not just coughs, colds, and referrals.”

“Texas Primary Care Preceptorship Program could have that same impact for other medical school students, and with a very small investment, Texas can help medical students have a four-week experience with a practicing physician where they can see first hand, real-life family medicine.”

He went on to argue for restoring funding to the primary care residencies through the THECB “Closing the Gaps” program, which includes direct funding for family medicine residencies, and for restoring funding to the Physician Education Loan Repayment Program.

“These programs are important to physicians of Texas because they are essential for the health of Texans,” Bias said.

Straus appoints House committees

Speaker of the House Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, assigned members to House committees on Jan. 31, meaning business on the west side of the Capitol will soon be in full swing. This session, bills germane to TAFP’s legislative priorities will likely be heard in the Appropriations Committee and the Public Health Committee. Here are the members of those committees.

House Appropriations Committee: Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, chair; Sylvester Turner, D-Houston, vice-chair; Dawnna Dukes, D-Austin; Larry Gonzales, R-Round Rock; Donna Howard, D-Austin; Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola; Susan King, R-Abilene; Ruth Jones McClendon, D-San Antonio; John Otto, R-Dayton; Diane Patrick, R-Arlington; Charles Perry, R-Lubbock; Four Price, R-Amarillo; John Zerwas, R-Simonton; Trent Ashby, R-Lufkin; Cecil Bell, R-Magnolia; Greg Bonnen, R-Friendswood; Stefani Carter, R-Dallas; Myra Crownover, R-Lake Dallas; Drew Darby, R-San Angelo; Sarah Davis, R-West University Place; Helen Giddings, D-DeSoto; Oscar Longoria, D-Mission; Marisa Márquez, D-El Paso; Sergio Muñoz Jr., D-Palmview; Rob Orr, R-Burleson; John Raney, R-College Station; and Bennett Ratliff, R-Coppell.

House Public Health Committee: Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, chair; Elliott Naishtat, D-Austin, vice-chair; Garnet Coleman, D-Houston; Sarah Davis, R-West University Place; Jodie Laubenberg, R-Parker; William “Bill” Zedler, R-Arlington; Nicole Collier, D-Fort Worth; Philip Cortez, D-San Antonio; R.D. “Bobby” Guerra, D-Mission; Susan King, R-Abilene; and J.D. Sheffield, R-Gatesville.

Serve as Physician of the Day

Thanks to the physicians who volunteered for the Physician of the Day program in the last several days: David Henry Pope, M.D., of Kerrville; Judith Egerton, M.D., and John Egerton, M.D., of Austin; Ronald Peron, M.D., of Campbell; and Douglas Curran, M.D., of Athens.

The Physician of the Day program brings a family physician to the Capitol each day of the legislative session to provide health care to members of the Capitol community. Dates are still available throughout the session. For more information on how to sign up and to view the calendar of open dates, go to the Physician of the Day page of the TAFP website,