Tilman J. Fertitta Family College of Medicine

The city of Houston and the state of Texas are in the midst of a verified health care crisis. Houston’s population has grown by more than four million since its last medical school was founded in 1972.

Numerous studies have shown that many low-income and minority populations lack access to a regular source of care, have gaps in preventative care and face delays in obtaining needed care. These populations often have higher rates of morbidity, hospitalization and mortality that could have been avoided with appropriate access to care.

A growing consensus of professionals recognize the need for a new approach to providing health care that acknowledges these discrepancies and have called for person focused and community-oriented primary care services to be provided in a continuous and coordinated manner to meet the health needs of the population. Additionally, studies have shown that states with a higher ratio of primary care physicians have better health and lower rates of mortality. Patients who regularly see a primary care physician also have lower health costs than those without one.

The Challenge

Houston is home to the largest medical center in the world, yet several neighborhoods suffer from major health disparities due to the lack of primary care. As a result, many of the low-income residents in these communities rely on emergency room care for preventable conditions, further escalating health care costs. Urban and rural communities that do have an adequate supply of primary care providers experience lower infant mortality, higher birth weights and immunization rates at or above national standards, despite social disparities. Furthermore, studies show that countries and states with stronger primary care enjoy higher quality health care at lower costs.

Currently, Texas ranks 47th out of 50 states in primary care physician-to-population ratio. Additionally, only 20 percent of Texas medical school graduates choose to practice in primary care specialties. The most commonly cited reasons for not pursuing primary care were the lower salary as compared to specialty fields and high debt incurred from medical school. Using evidence-based research, the University of Houston plans to develop a health care model that removes the barriers to primary care access and affordability.

Answering the Call

In 2017, the UH Board of Regents approved moving forward with a plan to create a new medical school in Houston focused on primary and community-based care. While the University of Texas and Baylor College of Medicine do an excellent job of training students in specialized medicine, the Tilman J. Fertitta Family College of Medicine at the University of Houston will be laser-focused on training primary care physicians committed to treating the underserved in urban and rural Texas. The Fertitta Family College of Medicine is poised to become a powerful agent for change and improvement in primary care, behavioral and mental health disease prevention, overall health promotion and community/population care.

The mission of the UH College of Medicine states it is accountable to society for improving the overall health and health care of the population of Greater Houston, Texas and beyond. It achieves the mission by:

  • Educating a diverse group of physicians who will provide compassionate, high-value (high quality at reasonable cost) care to patients, families and communities, with a focus on primary care and other needed physician specialties, such as psychiatry and general surgery.
  • Providing integrated, evidence-based, high-value care delivered to patients by interprofessional teams.
  • Conducting interdisciplinary research to find innovative solutions to problems in health and health care.
  • Engaging, empowering and collaborating with patient populations and community partners to improve their health and access to health care.

Our Approach

One of the clear differences at the UH College of Medicine will be the ground-level understanding of social determinants affecting quality of health. The centerpiece of this training will be the Household Centered Care Program where students and faculty spend four hours per week providing continuity of care to underserved communities, such as Houston’s Third Ward, over their entire four years of medical school. Through regular home visits, students will engage households, provide comprehensive health and social histories and develop a comprehensive care plan to improve health and quality of life long term. From this kind of alliance, we can learn from each other and affect real change.

Funding Priorities


The Fertitta Family College of Medicine aims to prepare the next generation of 21st century physicians to champion primary care for the underserved through innovative medical education and research. Scholarship support helps highly qualified medical students achieve their dreams of becoming physicians. Student debt is the number one deterrent for students when applying to medical school, with the average student graduating with close to $200,000 in loans. Scholarships enable graduates to choose primary care practice without the weight of debt unduly influencing their decision toward more lucrative medical specialties. Scholarship support will be the deciding factor for many incoming medical students in selecting the University of Houston over another institution.

Because we compete with other medical schools, the Fertitta Family College of Medicine’s goal is to have a minimum 50 percent of students earning scholarships to attract and retain the best and brightest. Current Fertitta Family College of Medicine tuition is $25,000 per year, or $100,000 for four years.

Medicine with a Mission Fund

Building the first medical school in Houston in 48 years was a historic undertaking. The Fertitta Family College of Medicine’s efforts have been met with mammoth support toward initial starting funds, scholarships and program support. However, starting a medical school requires more, including sustained support toward basic operations while student numbers and state funding for students reaches needed levels.
The Medicine with a Mission Fund supports salaries, instructional materials, required continuing education for faculty, equipment and supplies, research development and community outreach efforts. These resources are critical to advancing the College’s strategic mission and maintaining financial stability.

Community Initiatives and Programs

The Tilman J. Fertitta Family College of Medicine has deep roots in Houston and an important goal – to transform health and health care in communities experiencing major disparities. Our medical students gain understanding, skills and tools by working with interdisciplinary teams and community partners for a holistic and community-based approach to health care. To reinforce our mission, Fertitta Family College of Medicine uses multiple strategies to connect and engage with local communities.

The College works with diverse Houston communities to learn about their priorities and develop better health outcomes in Houston – together. To this end, we have partnered with members from Houston’s East End and Third Ward to form Community Working Groups to address issues important to them.

The Household-Centered Program works with families from two communities with the poorest health outcomes in Harris County – the East End and Third Ward. The combined efforts of Community Health Workers from Healthy Connections and interprofessional teams of nursing, medical and social work students and faculty, allow us to promote coordinated care to address community health and social service needs.

The Tilman J. Fertitta Family College of Medicine is developing a Coordinated Care Network – connecting health, human and social service organizations in the East End and Third Ward. It will allow us to enhance our collective, yet often siloed, work addressing the social needs that impact individuals’ health and well-being across Harris County and the state of Texas.

Endowed Faculty Positions

The Fertitta Family College of Medicine faculty members are experts in their field, fueling discovery and innovation to improve health in underserved communities across Houston and beyond. It is imperative that the College recruits and retains prominent faculty to develop curriculum that is transformational in its approach to impacting a patient’s health and quality of life. Endowed faculty chairs and professorships support our faculty as they engage in a bold new research and scholarship agenda, fueling our learning environment through heightened knowledge, innovation and discovery to address today’s most prevalent health challenges.

Statistics | Provost's 2022 Impact Report