Austin
8:19 am
Fri February 10, 2012

Top Morning Stories 2/10/12: A Smoke-Free UT, Inmate Health Care, New Hurdle for Austin Med School?

UT to Go Tobacco-Free?

Smoking is already banned in practically all indoor spaces on the UT campus, but to earn a sizeable grant, that ban could soon extend outdoors too.

UT's Vice President for University Operations, Pat Clubb, and Vice President for Research, Juan Sanchez, announced yesterday that the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (one of UT's large donors) will no longer fund research at institutions that do not have a "tobacco-free" campus policy.  The school has a deadline of March 1, 2012 to adapt and expand it's current "No Smoking" policy, a move that would preserve tens of millions of dollars for cancer research.

The revised ban, which could prevent smoking on campus sidewalks and in parking garages, resonates not only with UT's cancer researchers but with its student population as well.  In 2011, the university's student government passed a resolution supporting a tobacco-free campus, while president William Powers, Jr. opposed it.

Texas Prison Board Evaluates Inmate Health Care Coverage

The Texas Board of Criminal Justice meets in Austin today, where they will examine the issue of inmate health care.

According to the Associated Press, the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston currently provides healthcare to roughly 80% of the state's 150,000 inmates.  However, they say the arrangement is costing the school, and they refuse to dip into school resource to recover their losses.  

Brad Livingston, the prison system's executive director, says the agency is prepared for a transition of services if needed.  But until then, he says UT Galveston, lawmakers, and the governor's office are working together to form a future solution for inmate health care. 

Texas Med School Proposals at Odds?

In more med school news: We’ve heard about Texas Sen. Kirk Watson’s pitch for an Austin medical school. But our friends at the Texas Tribune, via The New York Times, remind us there’s another Texas city looking for a world-class medical center of its own. The Trib’s Thanh Tan reports:

Senator Eddie Lucio Jr., Democrat of Brownsville, has long steered the effort to open a medical school in the poverty-stricken Rio Grande Valley. Mr. Lucio said that numerous higher education entities had indicated that South Texas should be next in line for a four-year medical institution. He cited statistics showing the area’s population suffers from a higher incidence of diabetes, cancer and obesity than the rest of Texas.

“We may not have as much money, but we have more need,” said Mr. Lucio, who added that he understood Mr. Watson’s efforts. “I only fear it will take longer to accomplish our goal by trying to take this down the road at the same time.”

Mr. Watson rejected the notion that his efforts could stymie South Texas’ plans. He said he is attempting to work around a system hampered by politics and limited financing.

“I will not succumb to the zero-sum game that the state has tried to play when it comes to things like higher education and medical education,” Mr. Watson said.