Interim Chief to spark health innovation in new administrative position
The University is on the brink of re-formatting health program initiatives. As a Tier One institute in a city that leads the health care sector, UH has made changes that will cater to the community and students. Optometry Dean Earl L. Smith III was appointed by President and Chancellor Renu Khator as the interim chief health officer, dedicated to bringing UH into a future of new degree programs and the creation of the Health Science Center.
The Daily Cougar: What exactly are you going to be doing during this two-year term that will benefit the University?
Earl Smith III: I analyze the needs for the health care workforce of Texas and beyond. Then, working with various stakeholders in and outside of the University to expand and enhance programs.
It’s very likely that we will initiate some new degrees in the health care arena. The most efficient way to meet the workforce demands is to expand the programs that we have … They might not be as large as they can be, and many people don’t know about them.
TDC: What are some major items on your agenda that you’re working on?
ES: Working to enhance the clinical services that we have on campus, increase our visibility and potentially get them all in one place to provide better services to Houstonians. We have to develop programs that can, in essence, fund themselves.
TDC: Why do you think that there are a lot of people who don’t know about the health professions at the University?
ES: It’s not anything unique to the University of Houston; allied health programs have been under-appreciated and under-recognized. A lot of programs, people don’t know about them, don’t hear about them and don’t think about going into those professions. Here on campus, we’re spread all over: in the medical center, on campus; they’re not consolidated.
TDC: When will UH’s new Health Science Center be opened?
ES: Quickly. I have a two-year position. At the end of my two years, we should have a strategic plan on how the University is going to move forward. We will likely build another health and biomedical sciences building behind the optometry building.
If we’re able to do the things we need to, there is no reason why that building won’t be under construction within two years.
TDC: What is something that you want students to recognize about what you’re doing?
ES: Students can recognize that this is a fantastic time to get involved in the health care arena. The demand is increasing — there has never been a better time to go into health care professions. One of the president and provost’s pledge is to make sure our university is the best place to do that.