As an emerging paradigm of inter-institutional collaboration continues to redefine the landscape of the Texas Medical Center, Houston Methodist and Texas A&M Health Science Center are partnering to bring even more innovative research and medical education to the state of Texas through several new health professions degree programs. Beginning in 2015 and serving as the cornerstone of their budding partnership, 24 Texas A&M medical students will begin clinical training and graduate research in Houston, with plans for that number to double by 2016. Houston Methodist doctors and scientists who participate in the program will receive Texas A&M faculty appointments and titles.
“The Texas A&M and Houston Methodist joint degree programs combine the strengths of our institutions to train the next generation of physician leaders,” said Tim Boone, M.D., Ph.D., co-director of the Houston Methodist Institute for Academic Medicine (IAM) and the new regional vice-dean for the Texas A&M College of Medicine. “Our programs will mentor young physicians to nurture their ideas for new cures and treatments, and provide them with the skills they need to turn these ideas into realities that improve health for patients everywhere.”
The medical degree program will begin with two years of basic medical science and pre-clinical training at Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine in Bryan, and continue with the third year rotation and options for fourth year electives at Houston Methodist Hospital. As part of a joint M.D./Ph.D. degree program, Texas A&M Health Science Center will work with Houston Methodist to provide translational research opportunities on the Houston campus. Those individuals pursuing an M.D./Ph.D. joint degree will take their medical and graduate sciences classes at Texas A&M campuses and complete three to four years of doctoral thesis work at the Houston Methodist Research Institute or the Texas A&M Health Science Center Institute for Biosciences and Technology, both leading medical research institutes.
“These are the kinds of programs Texas needs to cut through the barriers to medical innovation,” added Mauro Ferrari, Ph.D., president and chief executive officer of the Houston Methodist Research Institute and director of the Houston Methodist IAM. “They empower physicians at our nationally recognized hospitals to partner with our excellent universities and our growing biotechnology industry to use research dollars more effectively and achieve real progress in treating the worst diseases.”
Laying the groundwork for future generations of doctors and scientists, the institutions’ representatives view this collaboration as a tremendous asset for the city of Houston. “Through combined efforts, Texas A&M and Houston Methodist are offering aspiring physicians and clinical scientists
a unique, unparalleled educational opportunity in an academically rich environment renowned for discovery and translation,” said Brett P. Giroir, M.D., chief executive officer of Texas A&M Health Science Center. “These are exciting times for the Aggie family as we continue to build our Houston campus, and in turn, lead world-class research and medical education in the most important health-related district in the world.”
Falling in line with the grand scope and ambitions of this partnership, it represents another step forward in Houston’s expansion efforts for the Texas A&M Health Science Center. This past January, the announcement of a two-year ground lease in the Texas Medical Center for future construction of a multidisciplinary research and education building adjacent to the Albert B. Alkek Building, which currently houses the Texas A&M Institute for Biosciences and Technology, established a backdrop of growth which will continue to propel the fledgling institution forward.
Showcasing the alignment in philosophy and ambition between the two institutions, Boone feels a commitment to helping Texas A&M Health Science Center actualize those goals. “Symbolically, this is about reaching out to Texas A&M and saying, ‘You’ve been here for a while and we’d like to lock arms with you and bring you into the medical center in a larger way,’” he said. “It just makes sense to expand upon that relationship. With the plans for another research building on their existing campus footprint, we think that Texas A&M Health Science Center needs to be in the mix—they’re committed to achieving that, and we’re committed to be a good partner for them to see that happen.”
“This really is a perfect collaboration,” concluded Giroir. “Although Texas A&M Health Science Center is relatively young, we’re one of the most rapidly emerging research institutions in the country. Houston Methodist is consistently rated as one of the top hospital systems in Texas and the nation. We compliment each other, and there’s tremendous synergy between clinical expertise, educational prowess and translational excellence. When you bring that together, special things are going to happen.”