The University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) is a component of the University of Texas System located in Galveston, Texas, about 50 miles (80 km) southeast of downtown Houston. It is a health care complex spanning 85 acres (344,000 m²), with seven hospitals, 13,000 employees and an assortment of specialized clinics, centers and institutes, including a medical school. The medical school is the oldest one west of the Mississippi River.
It was established in 1891 with one building and fewer than 50 students. Today UTMB's campus has grown to more than 70 buildings and an enrollment of more than 2,500 students. The 84-acre campus includes four schools, three institutes for advanced study, a major medical library, seven hospitals (including an affiliated Shriners Burns Hospital), a network of clinics that provide a full range of primary and specialized medical care, and numerous research facilities.
Since its founding, UTMB has served indigent or poor populaces, such as prisoners, the homeless, and single mothers, including patients with ailments that are very expensive to treat (such as burns). It is one of only a handful of hospitals in southeastern Texas that does so. Currently, UTMB is certified as a Level I Trauma Center and serves as a trauma facility for the nine-county region in southeast Texas, including the Greater Houston area.
The UTMB campus includes a Shriners Hospitals for Children and a prison hospital that serves 80% of the Texas prison inmate population In addition, because of its level of specialized care, UTMB serves many indigent patients from across the state. The university spends upwards of $500 million annually providing such care.
In 2003 UTMB received funding to construct a $150 million National Biocontainment Laboratory on its campus, one of only two in the United States and the only one on a university campus. It houses several Biosafety Level 4 research laboratories, where studies on highly infectious materials can be carried out safely.
UTMB also has a major contract with the Texas Department of Corrections to provide medical care to inmates at all TDC sites in the eastern portion of Texas. UTMB also has similar contracts with local governments needing inmate medical care.
UTMB is currently in the process of recovering from the effects of Hurricane Ike. Employees returned to work in early October, 2008.
The location of the Medical Department of the University of Texas was decided between Galveston and Houston in a popular vote in 1881, but its opening was delayed due to the construction of the main university campus in Austin, Texas. The need for medical training in Texas was great: in 1891, 80% of doctors in the state had under a year of formal training in medicine, and so the "Texas Medical College" was formed in Galveston with the idea that it would become the medical department once state funding began.
The original building, now called Old Red, was begun on 1890 under the supervision of the Galveston architect Nicholas J. Clayton. Clayton toured several medical colleges in the North and East before drawing up his plans for the building. The medical school campus also included the John Sealy Hospital, which provided charity care for any who claimed Galveston residence.
Upon opening, the Red Building had been starkly underfurnished, a problem which was not fully remedied until after the Hurricane of 1900, when the state rallied around the ravaged city. Dr. Thompson, professor of surgery, said that "the regents were so generous in repairing the damage to the building and restoring the equipment, that we were actually in better shape at the end of the year 1901 than we had been before." In addition, the damage to the roof of Old Red allowed for the addition of sky lights, which had always been wanted for the dissection room.
Ewing Hall is named for Maurice Ewing, a notable alum.
Hurricane Ike caused significant flood damage to approximately 750,000 square feet of the UTMB campus, about $100 million of which will be covered by flood insurance. The flooding peaked at around 8 feet in some buildings. As of October 9, 2008, the damage is estimated at $710 million. In addition, due to damages and financial strains, the 500-bed John Sealy Hospital is expected to initially reopen with only 200 beds. UTMB's biosafety level 4 lab took on minimal damage. The medical branch and the Texas Legislature have had a history of disagreements over funding, especially in regards to the large amount of health care and services the hospital provides to poor and uninsured patients; however, the school hopes that the state and University of Texas System will help cover costs for some of the uninsured damage.