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UNT Health Science Center - Our History

The University of North Texas Health Science Center is one of the nation's distinguished graduate academic health science centers, dedicated to education, research, patient care and service. It comprises the Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine, the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, the School of Public Health and the School of Health Professions, which includes the departments of Physician Assistant Studies and Physical Therapy. UNT Health is the clinical practice of the Health Science Center and supports our educational, research and community service missions through its 230 health care providers.

Students talking

The Health Science Center began when the Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine (TCOM) accepted its first students in 1970. The first class of doctors of osteopathic medicine graduated in 1974. Under the leadership of TCOM's first president, Marion E. Coy, DO, the school earned full accreditation from the American Osteopathic Association Bureau of Professional Education and full recognition from the Texas State Board of Medical Examiners. Dr. Coy opened TCOM's first two community health care clinics - one urban, one rural. He also traveled constantly during his presidency, sharing TCOM's story with the public and legislators, and attending every meeting of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. He successfully rallied statewide support, and in May 1975, the Texas Legislature passed Senate Bill 216, which made TCOM a state-assisted medical school under the jurisdiction of the North Texas State University Board of Regents.

Ralph L. Willard, DO, TCOM's second president, took the helm in 1981, leading the evolution of TCOM's physical presence from a renovated bowling alley and assorted leased facilities into a modern campus of significant impact in Fort Worth's renowned Cultural District. During Dr. Willard's tenure, TCOM issued goal statements that would permanently guide the school's areas of emphasis: education, research and community service. The statements defined how the people and programs of TCOM should contribute to finding solutions to America's health care problems, to preventing disease and to fostering collaborative biomedical research initiatives.

TCOM's third and longest-serving president, David M. Richards, DO, took office in 1986 and led the transformation of TCOM into a Health Science Center with the addition of the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences (GSBS) in 1993, a Physician Assistant Studies Program (now the Department of Physician Assistant Studies) in 1997 and the School of Public Health (SPH) in 1999. Research also thrived, and the Health Science Center developed the fastest growing academic research program in Texas. Five Institutes for Discovery were established to nurture groundbreaking research in aging and Alzheimer's disease, cancer, cardiovascular disease, vision and physical medicine. The DNA/Identity Laboratory, originally funded to reduce the backlog of paternity cases pending in state courts, opened in 1990.

In 2001, Ronald R. Blanck, DO, became the Health Science Center's fourth president after serving as the highest-ranking physician in the armed forces, the surgeon general of the U.S. Army and commander of the U.S. Army Medical Command. Dr. Blanck led the expansion of all of the Health Science Center's programs and created a fourth school, the School of Health Professions (SHP). During his tenure, enrollment increased from just over 700 to more than 1,000. He established several hospital partnerships, helped bring the first federally funded community health clinic to Fort Worth and expanded biotechnology incubator activities with the city. In 2001, the national Osteopathic Research Center was founded, and the Texas Missing Persons DNA Database was established on campus. In 2002, TCOM was ranked for the first time among the top 50 medical schools for primary care by U.S. News & World Report, a distinction it has earned each year since, and the GSBS received the National Science Foundation's Presidential Award for Excellence in Science Mentoring. In 2005, the physical growth of the Health Science Center was guaranteed when Dr. Blanck oversaw the purchase of the adjacent former Osteopathic Medical Center of Texas property, which increased the campus from 16 to 33 prime acres in the heart of Fort Worth's Cultural District.

Scott B. Ransom, DO, MBA, MPH, became the Health Science Center's fifth president in 2006 after a career as a leading physician, National Institutes of Health-funded scientist, educator, author and administrator at the University of Michigan. Dr. Ransom expanded the Health Science Center's capacity for growth and excellence by doubling the size of the full-time faculty from nearly 200 to almost 400 and more than tripling the clinical volume of UNT Health to nearly 600,000 patient encounters. In 2007, the Master Facility Plan was approved by the Board of Regents, launching a building program that included our new 112,000-square-foot academic building. Several partnerships were developed, including a combined academic pediatrics program with Cook Children's Medical Center. Several new degree and research programs were established, including the master of health care administration, doctoral degree in public health, and a doctoral degree in physical therapy, as well as several centers and institutes including the Primary Care Research Institute, the Center for Community Health and the Mental Sciences Institute, all part of the Health Institutes of Texas. Opened in 2008, the TECH Fort Worth Acceleration Lab was created to help promote the commercialization of research.

Today, the Health Science Center has a $211.1 million annual budget and adds approximately $500 million into Fort Worth's economy annually. Since 2005, the number of students has rapidly grown from 1,000 to more than 1,600, and research expenditures have dramatically expanded from $22 million to more than $40 million per year funded by organizations such as the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, and others. It has approximately 400 faculty members and over 500 adjunct faculty members, as well as a staff of 1,400 to support our students and our missions of excellence in academics, research, clinical care and community engagement. 

The Health Science Center proudly serves the community through a variety of community and school outreach programs. For example, the Health Science Center founded our signature event, the annual Cowtown Marathon, co-founded Fort Worth's annual Hispanic Wellness Fair, and remains highly involved in both.

This page last modified June 7, 2010