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Sunday, June 13, 2021

Opinion

Khator chooses new health officer, suggests bright future for UH health research


President Renu Khator has appointed a new interim chief health officer. Earl L. Smith III, former dean of the College of Optometry, will serve to help launch the new Health Science Center.

The Health Science Center was approved by the Board of Regents last January. The Center will aid the University in workforce preparation, innovative solutions to research problems, community outreach and patient care.

With health care being the fastest-growing industry in Texas, the Health Science Center will be intrinsic to Houston’s development in the field. According to Smith, “the University of Houston is ideally positioned to significantly advance health care, particularly in Houston and Texas.”

Smith will be working with the Health Center Task Force. Together, they will be analyzing workforce needs and coming up with new degree programs to reflect the changes in and expansion of Houston’s health care community.

“It is clear to me that UH has the potential to address the increasing demands for health care services and professionals,” Smith said.

Houston’s Medical Center is the largest in the nation, employing more than 100,000 people, and that number is projected to skyrocket during the next five years. In fact, 24 percent of all degrees awarded by UH are in the health field — that accounts for about a quarter of all degrees in the region. The new Health Science Center may serve to make UH the primary Texas college for those seeking medical careers — as of now, that ranking belongs to Baylor.

Smith will be working toward developing a launch plan for the center.

Khator said, “Dean Smith brings the experience, enthusiasm and energy required for this considerable challenge.” Considerable, indeed. Smith will work for two years fine-tuning the structure and launch of a new sector of the University.

The program will be a huge boost to UH’s credibility and, by extension, standing within the college community. Ultimately, UH’s capacity and funding for research will be increased. These changes will improve enrollment, which will enhance the student experience.

Smith has the perfect credentials to head up this project. As both a medical professional and a seasoned university leader, he will be able to understand both sides in terms of what the Center needs in order to function and better serve its future students.

Opinion columnist Katie Wian is a English junior and may be reached at [email protected]

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