The foundation behind the San Antonio Medical Center promotion marking the 75th anniversary


SAN ANTONIO – It’s hard to believe there’s ever been a San Antonio without a South Texas medical center – no medical school and far fewer hospitals, research facilities or doctors’ offices, and agricultural fields instead of all these facilities and the residential areas and businesses that serve them. Arguably even more difficult to assign an official anniversary to the medical center, since its major early components, such as the current Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long School of Medicine at UT Health San Antonio, Audie Hospital L. Murphy Memorial VA and The Methodist Hospital, grew slowly and separately.

So why not celebrate the 75th anniversary of the founding of the largest non-profit organization that many San Antonians have never heard of: the San Antonio Medical Foundation?

As the first major civic driver behind the push for a medical school and more hospitals to serve the city’s growing post-war population, the foundation raised funds and lobbied for the medical center. It grew out of a committee of the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce that was formed in 1944 and first known as the Committee to Move the University of Texas Medical School from Galveston to San Antonio.

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This sentiment foreshadowed a 1945 resolution before the Texas Legislature to move the University of Texas Medical Branch, or UTMB, to Galveston, arguing that the medical school should be in a city with more hospitals and more patients – as San Antonio’s population of 253,854, by 1940 US Census figures, compared to Galveston’s 81,173.

After four years of legislative wrangling, the University of Texas Board of Regents “decided to put their money into Dallas…to take over the private Southwestern Medical School and make it part of the UT system,” says a story from the 75th anniversary, “San Antonio Medical Foundation: Our Dynamic Past, Our Collaborative Future,” based on an earlier story by Wilbur L. Matthews.

Meanwhile, residents of San Anton, committed to medical development, were laying the groundwork for progress here.

With a name change to the Medical Foundation Committee, Dr. VC Tucker, president of the Bexar County Medical Association, was named the first member, meaning the association approved the chamber’s goals for a such foundation. As quoted in the San Antonio Light of March 10, 1946, they were to improve the city’s ability to care for the sick, medical training for doctors and other medical professionals, centralized facilities, including a new county hospital and the support for medical research.

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“The idea is not to compete with (existing) hospitals, but to complement their facilities,” said an unnamed doctor quoted in the Light.

The foundation’s board of trustees was to be “composed primarily of lay people — men of great prestige and excellent individual reputation who are known to work for the good of the community. Wealthy men wishing to give to the community would then be assured that their money was being used for the good of the patients. Founding members included chamber medical committee chairman and attorney AJ “Jack” Lewis, banker John M. Bennett Jr. of Standard Trust Co., Melrose Holmgreen of Alamo Iron Works, oilman/philanthropist Tom Slick , local businessman Albert Steves III, philanthropist and UT Regent Margaret Batts Tobin and Colonel WB Tuttle, Chairman of the Public Service Commission.

After the 1948 legislative disappointment that saw UT’s next medical school move to Dallas, these worthy citizens and others turned to fundraising for medical education at Robert B. Green Hospital. of Bexar County, with modest results.

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In the mid-1950s, a new Hospital Committee of the Chamber of Commerce convinced the Southwest Texas Conference of the Methodist Church to establish a new hospital here – as long as the people of San Antonio would provide 25 acres of land and preliminary funding of $1.5 million, says the foundation’s story.

Two sites for the new Methodist Hospital were presented, one near downtown and Robert B. Green and one north of the Oak Hills Country Club with more room to expand. After a conflict with downtown business interests as well as infighting and restructuring, the foundation accepted the donation of the Oak Hills site with the owners’ stipulation that a medical school be built nearby.

Chartered in 1955, the hospital was built on former dairy and ranch land. After years of securing grants and donations, it opened in 1963 as the first hospital built to withstand a nuclear disaster, with two floors of underground shelters (
mentioned here on January 29).

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The medical school received its next big boost in 1959 when Governor Price Daniel signed a bill authorizing the establishment of a South Texas medical school, thanks in part to lobbying efforts with the State Commission on Higher Education by the Chamber and a revitalized San Antonio Medical. Foundation.

It opened in 1968 as the University of Texas Medical School at San Antonio, along with its ally Bexar County Teaching Hospital (now University Health). Its nursing school got its own building in 1970, as did the dental school in 1973.

All UT Health San Antonio schools are affiliated with another important public component of the South Texas Medical Center, the Audie L. Murphy Memorial Veterans’ Hospital, which combines patient care with research studies.

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As the medical center grew, it became one of the city’s main economic engines.

The San Antonio Medical Foundation remained active, acquiring nearly 750 acres of land with approximately 220 acres remaining for further development. From 2016 to 2021, the foundation provided $3.7 million in grants for projects that address aging, COVID-19, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and trauma.

During an anniversary presentation held Thursday at the Southwest School of Art, State Senator José Menéndez read a proclamation commending the foundation for its leadership in the continued development of the South Texas Medical Center, which “has grown to include 75 medical institutions, plus more than 45 clinics, 12 major hospitals, and countless small practices, offices, and non-medical businesses.

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